5 Steps To Best Utilize Your Network

No matter what industry you’re in, your network is one of your most important tools. Your network can get you your next job, new clients, or provide you with your next business opportunity. Knowing how to build and maintain relationships is key to succeeding in any field. Listed below are the five best practices that I have received for using networking to my advantage.

Photo Credit: CreateHerStock

Photo Credit: CreateHerStock

1. Get A.I.R. (Advice, Information, Referrals)

·      Your network is an amazing resource for advice and information. You have people within in your industry in various positions that you can get advice from on what direction you’d like your career to go and next steps to get you there, advice on how to handle a difficult situation or tips on doing your job more efficiently. You should also gather information on companies, positions, and people from your network. It’s a great way to stay in the know. Lastly, referrals remain a very powerful tool in gaining new clients or getting your resume in front of a hiring manager. People tend to only refer those they trust to uphold their reputation so be sure to be careful of how you speak of others. When you’re referred by someone, you are a reflection of them to others within their network.

2. The Three R’s (Research, Reciprocate, Relationship Build)

·      Research is very important in a number of ways. For instance, researching a company before applying is key in determining if you think your interests will fit well with that company. Research is especially important before asking someone in your network about a specific position at a company. Check out Glassdoor for reviews from previous employees, research salaries in your market for a particular position so that you can give an accurate pay range when compensation is brought up in an interview. Also research the panel, host, and possible attendees before attending any networking event so that you can avoid asking questions that are either unnecessary or that you should already know the answer to. You want to have quality conversations with attending a networking event.

·      Reciprocating is probably the most important rule of being a successful power networker because networking is a two-way street. You are essentially forming a business relationship with another person, it’s not about what the person can do for you. What can you do for them? Paying it forward will reflect well upon yourself and others will be more willing to offer to help you when needed.

·      Relationship building is what networking is all about. Please don’t be that person that goes to a networking event and shoves their card at a person three seconds after meeting them. No one likes that person. The idea here is to create quality connections and to build upon those connections. No one is interested in small talk at these events, they are looking for other quality people to connect to. After you’ve built rapport with that person for a few minutes, it’s likely that you’ll exchange information. At any rate remember to be genuine and authentic and that will make you memorable. It’s not a business card collecting contest.

Photo Credit: CreateHerStock

Photo Credit: CreateHerStock

3. Understand who makes a good contact

·      Don’t limit your list of contacts to just co-workers and family. You can network with people from anywhere, think of places that you frequent. The hair salon, favorite restaurants, the pet store…I literally heard about a job opportunity from the contractor working on my house. You never know who knows who.

4. Perfect your 30-second commercial (B-A-G)

·       Your 30-second commercial is a snapshot of your personal brand. It contains three parts: Brand, Accomplishment, and Goal. When you’re met with the statement “Tell me about yourself” it should sound something like this:

                        ·      Brand – “I’m a …and I help do ….”

                        ·      Accomplishment – “I love challenges” or “I really like the work that I do. I have accomplished…”

                        ·      Goal – “I’m currently looking for similar (state position) at (list companies). Are you familiar with any companies that might utilize this position?”

                                    ·      The Goal is where it becomes obvious that you’ve done your research or not. You should be able to list the companies that you’re interested in working for. It’s not your network’s job to find you a job, you are still in control of your job search.

5. Create a networking brief (Great for Informational Interviews)

·      A networking brief is resource best utilized to guide an informational or phone interview. Prepare about four questions (meeting should only be 10-15 minutes). You should only be talking about 20% of the time and asking open-ended questions as your primary focus is to gather information, not land a position.

·      Networking Brief contents:

                ·    A brief summary of the positions you’re considering

                ·   Work experience and education

                ·   The top companies you’re targeting in your job search

               ·   Your professional photo (optional)

               ·   Your current contact information

·      Agenda for Networking meeting

                 ·  Set the stage

                ·   Build rapport

                ·    Meeting purpose          

                 ·  30-second commercial (B-A-G)

                  ·  Get A.I.R.

·   Share networking brief

               ·   Advice and Information

               ·  Referrals

·    Close

             ·  Thank You

             · Next steps/permission to stay in touch

Pro Tips: Don’t bring your resume, the person may look at it and say they’ll give it to HR and it may get lost in the black hole. Tell them you can email them your resume when you get home. If they ask you for your resume, it’s okay to ask why they want it, ask if there’s something happening (they may know of a position opening up).

·      Respect the time limit you set. Say “I understand you’re busy and I only asked for 15 minutes so thank you so much for your time and advice.” If they say you can keep talking, that’s a green light. Again, they may know of a job opening.

Networking can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a great way to expand your knowledge of what others are working on and keep your name relevant. It’s also a great way to give back and help others succeed. Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to landing that new position, move up at your current company, or grow your personal business.

Keep Inspiring!

XOXO - Mechelle