Readers of my blog know I am passionate about networking. As an Extrovert with strengths in Communication and WOO (for those of you who are not familiar with Marcus Buckingham’s life-changing book Now, Discover Your Strengths, WOO is Winning Over Others. – Somehow it seems more positive in his book than it sounds here.) networking feels natural to me. What seems unnatural is to reach out to people only when you need something from them. That is NOT networking. At best, it is calling in favors and at worst it is using people. No one likes to be in that position.
What people like is to feel remembered. Supported. Heard. THAT is networking. When you think of someone, call. If you commute to work and have a cell phone, there is no reason not to reach out at least to 5 people each week. And your mom or sister does not count. Networking is as simple as saying to someone “I remembered you and wanted to see how you were doing.” Whatever may be holding you back from saying that, it cannot be that anyone would be offended. No one is too busy to be told they were remembered. Even if it is a bad time, you will be surprised that even well-placed executives will usually follow up that kind of a phone call with an invitation for coffee.
But if you really want to make sure you are networking well in 2012, here is how to do it.
1. Get a notebook (or use an application like ReQall if you are techie. But ONLY if it will help you – not if you will use it as an excuse to not get started since you need to download the app and learn it and blah, blah, blah, excuses, excesses.) I simply use a spiral notebook in a 5X7 size. Write down 20 people’s names that you would like to reach out to in before April 1.
2. Each person you talk to that is part of your network, write their name, the date you talked and a couple of things they said. Carry the notebook with you or keep it near your phone. Once you begin, you can refers to previous calls and contacts and sound like a networking whiz.
3. Start to work your list of 20 names. Call 5 in a week. Just to hear how they are doing. Touch base. End EVERY call with “Is there anything I can do for you?” Start the communication.
Let your networking leapfrog from a coffee or lunch to a letter of introduction for someone looking for a job. Updating your LinkedIn account and contacts counts as a networking exercise. Watch your notebook grow as you meet more people and as conversations with past co-workers remind you of other people you want to hear from. Soon you will have a vibrant network – even if you have “been out of circulation” for a while. It is never to late to begin. And popping onto someone’s radar screen after being gone for a few years is usually met with open ears.