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The Now, The New & The Next in Careers

Networking Articles

Stay ahead of the curve with insights from our CTL Associates.

  • 26 Jun 2013 2:33 PM | Anonymous

    By Kathleen Sullivan

    Business and professional meetings, conferences, and trade shows provide a range of opportunities to network face to face and uncover valuable professional contacts and business referrals. 

    However, many people attend these events with little forethought and a haphazard approach to socializing and expanding their network. 

    To turn every business meeting into a networking event, follow these 10 tips:

    1. Define your networking goals in advance of the meeting.  Decide whom you want to connect with at the meeting and why. Research who is attending by reviewing the names of participants, speakers, and vendors on invitations, distribution lists, and membership directories. 

    Create your target networking list and use it as your road map at the meeting. Learn more about the people on your target networking list before the meeting.Check out their backgrounds on Google or LinkedIn. Reach out to them ahead of time and ask if they would be willing to speak with you at the meeting. Start building a dialogue before you connect with them in person.

    2. Develop and practice your networking introduction.  Create a 30-second introduction that provides an overview of your background and career goals. State why you have an interest in speaking with target contacts. Have general topics to discuss with people you encounter unexpectedly.  Always include an offer to assist them with networking or introductions.

    3. Update your business cards. Bring more than enough current business cards to the meeting assuming you will have many opportunities for networking beyond your target list. If you are entering a new field, you may want to create customized cards including your career objective and networking goals.

    4. Design your meeting networking plan.  Identify where and how you will connect with people on your target list. Review the meeting agenda and floor plan. Seek out target contacts you have not connected with ahead of time at registration, receptions, breaks, or formal networking sessions. 

    5. Speakers usually allow time at the end of their presentations to talk with participants. If you do not have the opportunity to connect with a speaker on your list, send an email after the meeting to thank him for the presentation and ask any questions. Event committee members may also be targets contacts and usually have downtime during breaks or at the end of the meeting.

    If you do not have the opportunity to meet them, send a follow up after the meeting asking if you can set up a time to talk. Vendors typically are located at tables or booths. They expect to network at meetings and are easy to approach and engage.

    6. Put your networking plan into action. On the day of the meeting, arrive early and stay late to increase networking opportunities. Head towards the locations where you expect to find your networking targets and take the initiative to approach them and introduce yourself.  Stay on script. 

    7. Focus on relationship building, not selling. Limit each conversation to five minutes and make a graceful exit. If you have a mutual interest with a contact, ask for a business card and say that you will follow up within one week. Jot notes and reminders on the back of business cards to use when you follow up. Continue to follow your networking action plan and work the room throughout the meeting.

    Focus on areas where people congregate and take advantage of unexpected encounters. Introduce yourself to people sitting or standing near you during sessions or breaks. Be a connector and help make introductions between other participants.

    8. At the end of the day, evaluate how effectively you implemented your networking plan and what results you achieved. How many of your target contacts did you make?  Did your introduction break the ice and start a mutually beneficial conversation? Did the people you met express interest in continuing the conversation and accept a follow up call or meeting? Did you turn unexpected encounters into networking opportunities?

    9. Keep your word and follow up with your contacts. Use the notes you wrote on the business cards you collected to provide requested information or ask relevant questions.  Respond to any requests you receive promptly. If you are networking with a speaker or vendors, ask if you can be included on their mailing lists or newsletters.

    10. Move your networking plan forward. Keep in touch with the contacts you made and extend the relationship beyond the context of the meeting or conference. As you build a relationship, ask your contacts if you can add them to a formal network like LinkedIn. Continue to refine and hone your networking plan and make it even sharper for your next business meeting.

  • 18 Apr 2013 4:46 PM | Anonymous

    By Kathleen Sullivan

    People hire people. Making a personal connection and a favorable impression with other people can open doors for your career.

    If you have been spending too much time in front of your computer screen, it is time to get out and make your networking personal. Even though it is critical these days to establish a web presence and promote your brand via social media to introduce yourself to recruiters, hiring managers, and contacts in your field, spending too much time focused on your online persona may cause you to neglect one of the most important assets of your career – YOU. 

    Here are three ways you can market YOU and build relationships that can lead to networking, expanding your career, and even landing a job.

    Participate in professional and trade meetings and events: A key mission of professional and trade organizations is to promote that field or industry and build their base of people.  Networking is critical to the growth of these groups. 

    For those organizations in your field or industry or in a profession or industry you want to learn about, you have a ready-made networking opportunity. Get out there and attend an event. 

    If you are not certain you wish to join an organization, often you can attend a meeting as a guest or a trial member.  When you attend an event, be sure to target people you want to meet, have an introduction prepared, and bring business cards. 

    Ask for cards of the people you connect with, and follow up after the meeting with a message to try and extend the relationship. If you already are a member of a professional or trade group, be an active participant. 

    Volunteer to serve on a committee or board and help with the planning or support of meetings or conferences.  Being an active participant not only develops your relationships with other members, it also gives them the opportunity to see how YOU perform professionally: your teamwork, communication, organizational, and leadership skills in practice.

    Schedule face to face networking discussions: Rather than rely on email, LinkedIn, or Twitter to exchange information or conduct networking, ask to schedule a face to face meeting. People are very busy these days and make not have an hour available for a lunch or dinner meeting, but most people can and will take 20 minutes to meet you for coffee. Use this time both to introduce yourself and to get to know the other person. 

    Be clear and brief about your goal for the meeting and the information or insights you are seeking from the other person. Use this opportunity to sell YOU:  smile, make eye contact, and be animated.  Most of all, be authentic. The advantage of a face to face meeting is you become a real person who is engaging with another person.  

    Once someone gets to know more about YOU, he or she is more likely to help you rather than someone they encounter virtually over email or social media. Always be sure to ask how you can assist the other person at this time or in the future, and follow up the meeting with a message thanking him / her.

    Volunteer for local community events: Rather than simply write a check, show up and support your community’s civic, social, or fundraising events.  Volunteering your time in your community not only contributes to the social good and improvement of your town or city, but it also expands your contacts of people beyond your professional network. 

    Again, participating in community events is another opportunity for others to see YOU in action, and become aware of your professional skills and commitment.  People in your local organizations may not work in your profession or industry, but they often know people who do. If they have the chance to get to know you personally, they may be able to make valuable connections for you.

    Managing your career is a complex and time consuming.  You may find it easier and faster to spend your efforts at the computer using email and social media to network and look for a job. However, you need to weigh the value of these communications and connections with the impact you can make in person, which takes more time to plan, execute, and maintain.  

    Making networking personal is an investment in your future:  people hire people and they are more likely to hire YOU if they get to know and like you.

  • 30 Dec 2010 5:09 PM | Anonymous

    By Kathleen Sullivan

    Where do you want to go professionally this year? You have a range of options: a new role, a different industry, a promotion, self-employment, retirement, or a combination of several of these options.  As you develop your career goals for the year, it is critical to have the right network in place to help you plan, assess, and achieve your goals.

    Re-evaluate your network: Often, your network takes shape without much forethought or design. You meet people and develop relationships in school, at various jobs, and through professional organizations. These accumulated relationships become your network. When you are looking for a job or making a career change, you reach out to this network for advice and support. 

    However, they may not be the right people to help you attain the goals you set for this year. To reach your goals, you need information, insights, and influence. For example, if you want to change industries, you need assistance from people who have worked in that industry, who can tell you about the trends, opportunities, and pitfalls of that industry, and who can introduce you to people who have the potential to hire you for that industry. 

    Because your network developed based on relationships you had with people you knew when you worked in other industries, it may be unlikely that you have the appropriate people in your current network to help you with the transition to your target industry. As you develop your career goals, take an inventory of your current network and identify those people who have the relevant information, insights, and influence to support your new goals. Then, begin to design a new network.

    Re-align your network: To design a network that aligns with your updated goals, first create the strategic framework. Start by developing profiles of the people who would be in your ideal network. For example: What industries do these people work in? What companies do they work for? What roles do they hold? Who are their managers, mentors, and colleagues? What professional organizations do they belong to? Who are their thought leaders? Who are the consultants, vendors, and distributors they use?

    Once you have the strategic framework for your network, next fill in the framework by identifying specific people who would belong to this network. For example, find people who are working in your desired industry, company, or role, the hiring managers and decision makers, potential colleagues and mentors, thought leaders, and consultants, vendors, and distributors. 

    You can find this information by researching industry/trade publications, web sites, and blogs, company web sites, association directories, and business directories.  Once you have your networking framework populated with specific names, you have designed the ideal network to help you reach your new career goals.

    Re-energize your network: Now, your current network really can help you.  Some of them may belong in your ideal network, many may not. However, even if they do not fit the profile of someone who should be in your ideal network, they know you, they believe in you, and they want to help you.  Leverage your current network to help build your ideal network. Show them your networking framework and the people who would ideally be a part of it. 

    Ask if they can provide introductions or referrals to those specific people. If not, can they suggest other people who might be in the industries, companies, and roles you are targeting? As you start to make connections and build new relationships, you are creating the support system to reach your new career goals. 

    Resolve to recast your network every year: Your old network cannot support new career goals. Make it a step in your annual process of setting your new career goals to re-evaluate, re-align, and re-energize the network you have to create the network you need to move forward with your career.

  • 24 Sep 2010 5:13 PM | Anonymous

    By Kate Schaefers

    No doubt you’ve heard that networking is important to landing that next job.  However, in my professional experience, I find that few people utilize networking to the full extent. Networking is about building relationships, not simply expanding the Rolodex. Those who approach networking as a two way street build stronger and more effective connections than those with a “one and done” attitude.

    In thinking about networking, I am reminded of the simple truths of Robert Fulghum’s bestselling book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Fulghum contends that if we merely remember basic rules we learned as children, like sharing, playing fair, and cleaning up our own messes, the world would be a better place. In the spirit of Fulghum’s simple advice, I’d like to offer my own summary of the important principles of networking and job search.

    Be genuine. Sometimes job seekers get so focused on being the “right” candidate for a job that they lose their own identity in the process. Networking contacts often see through a false persona, and credibility can take a hit if a person isn’t seen (or felt) as honest. Connecting in a real way can help turn a networking or even interviewing contact into an advocate. Perfect, scripted answers to interview questions won’t take the place of being authentic.

    Be considerate. When job seekers focus too much on their sales pitches and don’t attend to the people with whom they are networking, it can come across as self-serving and shallow. Be respectful of time, listen, say thank you, keep in touch, and return the favor.

    Communicate often. Today’s high tech job search is a mixed blessing. We have a plethora of information available at our fingertips, but the magnitude can be overwhelming. Despite the challenges, it is vitally important to maintain ongoing contact with people. Letting people know how a lead panned out, offering regular updates, staying in touch, all are important to maintaining a relationship and staying top of mind. It’s amazing how many job seekers have a “one and done” approach to networking, thereby making it easy for contacts to forget them down the road when they may actually have a job lead.

    Know what you want. A focused job seeker helps a networking contact envision concrete ways to help.  Know your strengths, be clear about the types of positions you are exploring, and clearly communicate what you need, such as referrals to others in his or her network, or ideas of companies that might be a fit for you.

    Maintain a positive attitude. I know this is difficult, but nothing sours a networking meeting or interview like a negative attitude. Focus on strengths, and trust that each networking meeting, and each job application, is one step closer to a job.

    Be generous. In networking meetings, listen for needs, and think of ways to contribute. Be generous with your knowledge, share relevant articles and links, and even make introductions to others when appropriate. I’ve witnessed people parlay a networking meeting into a consulting project by adding “no strings attached” value. Temporary gigs provide practical experience, expand networks, and even some income, while expanding a resume.

    Real barriers exist for experienced workers, like age discrimination and stiff competition for jobs. However, older workers bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the workplace. Finding ways to highlight this value is essential.  Networking, when approached as a two way street, can be a potent tool for the older job seeker. With the right attitude, the road to reemployment may be long, the path winding, but the journey can be one of growth and hope.  In the end, it is the simple but profound things that may make the difference.

  • 17 Aug 2010 6:10 PM | Anonymous

    By Charlotte Weeks

    It’s become common knowledge that networking is how the majority of people find jobs. Statistically, this applies to executives even more than those at other levels. When associations are sourcing for the ideal person to lead their organization, they are more likely to turn to their existing networks first. Since getting hired as a result of networking can take time, it doesn’t always make it the most appealing option for busy executives and aspiring executives.

    While not a quick method, there are ways that you can increase the effectiveness of your networking and shorten your job search at the same time. The key is to spend your time connecting with people in your industry instead of casting a wider net. Of course, you can let friends and family know you’re looking, as people often find opportunities in unexpected ways. However, your dedicated “networking time” – connecting on LinkedIn, Twitter, and at in-person events – will be better used if you’re focused on what you want.

    For example, let’s say you are looking for a job leading an environmental association. You’ll have better luck if once a month you attend a function attended by environmental leaders, rather than going to a “general” event once a week! Optimize these gatherings even more by determining who you need to come into contact with. Identify associations that interest you, along with names (if possible) of board members, hiring managers, and human resources employees. Then, when someone asks how they can help you, you’ll be prepared to ask for introductions!

    Meeting new people is only half the battle–maintaining your network is just as important. Continue building relationships with existing contacts. Schedule regular lunches, coffees, or even brief telephone conversations to stay connected. For people outside of your geographic area (and even those within it!), keep in touch through social media, and always be a “giver.” This means letting your network know of leads or contacts they may be interested in, sending articles that may appeal to them, or just calling to see what you can do to help.

    Building a strong network takes time, but it’s also an investment – your relationships can lead to opportunities at all stages of your career! Whether you’re actively looking for work, choosing new board members, or sourcing for employees, you’ll have a pool of contacts that you can tap into on short notice.

  • 19 Apr 2010 7:28 PM | Anonymous

    By Ruth Winden

    Imagine ... you have been working for the same company for 20 years. You have made the most of the opportunities presented to you, mastered challenging projects and achieved steady progression. You enjoy your growing responsibilities and the perks that go with it. You are convinced that you have managed your career well.

    And then, one day, it happens. You are told that you will be made redundant. Your job is gone. After the initial shock, disbelief and anger, you meet with a career coach to discuss your options. The first thing you hear is that the most promising way of finding your next job is through networking. "Networking? Me? I don’t have any networks! I’ve been with the same company for two decades – how am I supposed to have any networks?" I have heard this response many times from my clients. They literally cannot see and feel how they are linked to others. However much I promote the idea and outline the benefits of networking, they'll stick with the overused, ineffective job search methods like trawling Internet job sites for hours and hours. I need to challenge their view that the length of service with one single employer can only be a disadvantage (i.e., limited and fewer contacts).

    To help my clients overcome this sense of hopelessness and increase their chances of identifying new opportunities, I know they need to see some results. And quickly. To shift their thinking, I work with them to identify the networks that they have developed over time, not despite working for one employer, but because of it. And help them appreciate that the quality of these long-time contacts can be powerful, even if there are fewer of them.

    Finding the networking riches in long-term employment: First, we classify the different categories of people they have met and worked with through their entire time with their organization. These are the six categories we start with: 

    1. Internal departments & functions worked in and with 
    2. Internal (cross-functional) projects & specific initiatives
    3. Internal & external customers/clients/service users 
    4. Internal/external suppliers 
    5. Professional development activities & internal and external training courses 
    6. Previous colleagues 

    Next, we draw a networking map with a section for each category. Then, we work in reverse chronological order, filling in all of the names. Seeing their networks evolve in front of their eyes like this seems to make all the difference. In black and white, their networking possibilities just seem more real. Moving on, we use different colored highlighters to identify their strongest personal working relationships (e.g., orange is for the "warmest" contacts they feel most comfortable reaching out to). This is where they will start. Once they can see that there is a way forward, and they start to get positive responses, we expand their network maps with other obvious categories, from professional associations to university alumni and personal contacts.

    We also pay attention to the colleagues who have left the organization in previous years, in the hope that they have settled into new positions elsewhere. Getting back in touch with these contacts is not nearly as challenging as my clients fear, thanks to the online networks such as LinkedIn. In one instance, a client who had worked for the same employer for 28 years told me that news of his redundancy had spread like wildfire among previous colleagues who had lost their jobs. They all had the same message for him: We know what it's like to rebuild your career. But we’ve come out of it the other way, and so can you! Get in touch and we’ll introduce you to our new networks!

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