Have you ever been offered a job without asking for one? Have you gotten a job from a friend when you needed something? Sounds like you have a strong network. I didn’t, and, to an extent. don’t. But, I learned over time what networking could really enable. It’s huge and one of the main reasons why I’m so much more careful now about building my own network.
When I was just starting out in my career, I was fortunate enough to be in a company where I was able to network heavily with our customers and partners. Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize the power of Networking. I was meeting with CEOs and senior engineers of all our customers and partners. At one point, I was even offered a job from a client. When I moved on from that job, I made the requisite LinkedIn connections with as many people as I could remember and then moved on. In my very next position, at one point, I thought of someone I had met previously and decided to reach out to them for a potential vendor/partner relationship. However, it was a horrible failure with no win-win outcome.
Since then, I’ve thought about why the outcome was such a mess. Here’s my summary.
1. I relied too heavily on LinkedIn.
I thought connecting with someone on LinkedIn was good enough to consider that individual a resource I could have some favor with. “Tools are only as good as the person who uses them” seems very appropriate.
Connecting with your network is more than just seeing their professional background and who they know. You need to consistently engage with your network. Shoot people notes (not just at the end of the year) with an update of where you are, what you are up and what you’re looking forward to. When you come across something that is in a particular person’s field or professional domain, send it along.
Here’s a great one that really works – If you come across a job opportunity in your company that you think someone in your network would be perfect for, reach out, and show them that YOU being in THEIR network can lead to really beneficial things.
2. I didn’t know Networking Etiquette.
I’m using those terms loosely. But the point is the same. I acted inappropriately.
When you reach out to someone in your network, before you start asking for favors, make sure you engage with them in a meaningful way. I’m not talking about dinner or coffee, although those wouldn’t hurt. You just need to be personable. Talk to them and share where you are in your career, what you’re up to you in your job and why you’re excited professionally. Ask them questions as well. Talk to them about your old company (if you’re positive that’s a good thing) or how things are progressing on their end. Who knows, they may be looking for a shift themselves and be perfect for your new employer.
If I could offer any advice to someone just starting out, it would be to really focus on your network and nurture it. Don’t ever forget people in your past and don’t mistreat people because everyone you encounter, personally or professionally, becomes part of your network.