Career Development Networking — a Starting Plan
First of all, it’s important that you think of networking as two-way! This is essential. The word “networking” has become rather polluted by the way some persons are using this word. Use the word however you want, but please understand that here I am using it to mean an exchange. Be pragmatic, of course, but understand that you are only “networked” if a two-way connection is happening. This is absolutely essential to understand, if you want to make this an empowering practice.
In my empowerment consulting sessions, I’m often coaching clients about the best persons to network with, the subjects to speak about, and how to speak about the subjects. Those who are a little shy or reticent about speaking with someone at much higher levels sometimes just need this added encouragement to take the step to network.
Many successful people already understand the need to network within their company. They probably don’t need a plan. Some jobs require that individuals know, interact, and partner with others in the company, and so they are usually well-networked naturally. If the company is large, though, there are many persons outside the scope of the current job who are potentials for expanding a network.
Here is a simple approach to getting started. Make two lists of persons in your company. The first is a list of the persons you already know and like. The second is a list of the persons you believe can, at some time, help you in your career — you may already know them or not. It is o.k. to have the same person on both lists; in fact, this strategy depends on that!
The intersecting subset of those two lists is the starting place. In other words, start your networking plan with the persons you like, whom you think can help you in your career. You will have more success by starting where it is easiest. Keep your lists updated over time, so that this is an organic process.
The next step is to decide, person by person, how and how often to network. Again, start where it is easiest. If you have regular meetings with someone on your target list, sit near the person, or suggest that you have lunch afterward, or take an interesting article to give to the person. If you consider you are already actively networking with this person, you may not need to adjust any actions. Just be certain to keep the person on your radar screen.
For best results, keep a journal of your networking. In your journal or on your calendar, make a notation for yourself for your next contact. By all means, do not over-commit yourself to starting to build too many new relationships at the same time. As a relationship is in the stage where either you and the other person are at ease to “call anytime,” you have built a relationship, so continuing it is easier.
Networking is as simple as such examples as I’ve just given; a networking plan is also simple. It just requires some, ummmm, planning and paying attention.