The wonderful thing about communicating with others through writing is the feedback one receives. Without that feedback, true communication isn’t really occurring; you’re just broadcasting. So with that in mind, I am of a mind today to share with you an issue raised by one of my networking connections who had a topic suggestion for me.
James Moodie – and feel free to look him up on LinkedIn and extend a connection request – got in touch with me and raised an issue around the subject of professional networking. Understanding and believing in the value of networking, he wondered about how to combat the reality that over time, many of a persons networking connections may for a variety of reasons may diminish. Some people move without forwarding contact information, some retire, company’s shut down and start-up under other names, etc. And of course, many people don’t bother to nurture networking connections when they are employed simply because they don’t utilize those connections and it’s only when unemployed they find them lacking.
First and foremost, don’t let your networking contacts drop in importance. Send the odd message to people, tell them how much you appreciate them, ask them a question periodically, check up on their professional development, offer them a hand in any way you might deem appropriate. Most people are turned off if you only approach your network when you need their help and look desperate. I can speak from experience where I’ve had people connect with me, ask for my advice and help getting through some issue, and then once the help is extended, they disappear never to be heard from until the next crisis. Well, it is what it is.
Okay so to re-establishing connections and expanding your network. Let’s have a look at LinkedIn for starters. Rather than just arbitrarily clicking on the first 500 names that pop up as connection suggestions, go about extending requests strategically.
Take James for example. Visit his profile and you’ll read in his summary the following: “As a problem solver for your business, I use my years of experience to find both conventional and unconventional solutions to business, processes, systems and data issues by applying critical thinking, common sense and most importantly, by listening to the input from team members.” The man himself works with integrity and has professional experience the Health Care, Financial, Education and Insurance sectors.
Using the above information, you can see what James might have to offer you and/or your organization; what value he’d add, and one of the key personal attributes he’d bring to the process; integrity. Networking works both ways; what you can do for others and what they can do for you. It’s about all the conversations that go on beyond the initial reason for the communication you get into.
Start with why you want to connect with people in the first place. This is exactly why people never get started ironically; they don’t know why connecting is important. So perhaps James in our example wants to expand his client base, attract new business, contract his services out to an employer etc. Fair enough. Now who to reach out to. Well, he resides specifically in Pickering Ontario, so if he’s going to reach on in person to businesses, connections within 150 km’s might be his geographical limit. Folks beyond that radius can still be extremely valuable; the world has shrunk considerably and if he works remotely, there are no limitations.
Once you’ve added the people you know personally, get involved in following the companies that you typically would like to work with. Track down the top brass or the people at the level that you’re interested in getting to know. Send them a request to connect and take a moment to add a little something to that plain connection request that comes up; make it personal.
Once people accept your request, send them another message thanking them for that, extend your services to them, let them know why you targeted them in the first place.
Recall James expertise in 4 employment sectors. Stands to reason that he’d want to assess if moving forward he wants to work with all of 4 or specialize in 1 or 2. Knowing what he can do for an organization, picking a few to look into each week, asking each person for ideas and suggestions of others to connect with that might have mutually beneficial outcomes is excellent advice.
Growing out your connections can also be accomplished when you embark on new experiences too. Take an evening photography course at a community college and you come into contact with people who may just have work needing to be done and will appreciate the good fortune of having you in their circle. Networking is more than just the here and now, it’s about future opportunities too. Frequent contact with your connections keeps you first and foremost in their mind when they need your expertise and assistance.
Carry your business cards with you everywhere you go and have them ready. Install an app like comcard and you’ll be able to snap a photo of others cards and it will organize that information on their cards in an easy to read electronic format. Be friendly, gracious and attract people to you with your good work.
I’ve met James in person by the way. He initiated a face-to-face meeting with me after connecting online. He’s everything he says he is on his profile. Tell him Kelly sent you!