THE SKILLS TO SUCCEED: The 4 Phases of NetworkingJuly 18, 2018 6:55 am
Networking is the key to getting ahead. It’s the way successful people locate and take advantage of opportunities in their current jobs or when looking for a new one. Networking is often portrayed as a simple process; it’s anything but. Like anything else in business, networking takes commitment, hard work, skill and perseverance. To help you do it better, let me boil networking down to four phases.
Phase 1: Preparation
Preparation for networking involves the completion of four tasks: Discerning your motivation. Whatever your reason for networking–to find a new job, expand your current one or just see what’s out there–it helps to break down your interests and motives into factors that
matter to you. For example, if you’re looking for a new job, include among your lists: fields or industries, locations, hours, work environments, how people are treated, which of your skills you like or dislike, benefits, salary and advancement.
Deciding what you want from each source. Have a clear idea of why you’re contacting each person. For example, do you want to pick the person’s brain about a specific field or get feedback on your resume?
Do some research first so you know how the person you’re meeting with can help you.
Deciding what to offer in return. Networking is about give and take. So in addition to knowing what you want to take, figure out what you can give back to each source. Chips you can offer may include connections with companies or individuals who can help the contact or his or her business. Again, doing some prior research enables you to identify the contact’s interests and what you have in your bag that might be of interest to the person.
Memorizing your `elevator speech.’ This is a short statement about you that encapsulates the
information from tasks 1, 2 and 3. It should be concise enough to deliver in the course of a single elevator ride. Of course, you can also deliver it via e-mail or in any other face-to-face context.
Example: “I am looking for a safety director position at a large to mid-size company where I can leverage my 10 years of factory experience, broad people management skills and mechanical engineering background to help improve health and safety performance in a manufacturing environment.”
Phase 2. Finding the Right Meeting
The factors on your wish list should dictate the kind of meeting to seek. For example, if your wish is to get an internal intro, you might try to set up a company meeting or technical users group. If you’re looking for information about jobs or careers, networking lunches or dinners (such as the ones organized by my outfit, ExecuNet) are a good idea.
Next, consider the format of the meeting. Try to seek out formats that fit your personality. For example, if you’re the shy type, you’ll probably feel more comfortable with events that have a facilitator or roundtable discussions than with one-on-one meetings.
Phase 3. Handling the Meeting
Start the meeting with your elevator pitch. See where the conversation leads. If you don’t get an
immediate offer for help, try offering the contact your “chip.” For example, say something like “would you like me to introduce you to John Doe?” Chances are good that the source will reciprocate with an offer to help you.
Remember to exchange business cards when the meeting ends. And be careful. You don’t want to simply stick the card in your wallet, especially if you’re meeting lots of people. Unless you have a photographic memory, when you later pull out the cards you might have a hard time sifting through the various conversations in your mind. “Was this the guy I talked to about baseball or the one I promised to send a copy of that book?” So make sure you note important information about the source on the back of the card, such as the time and date of your meeting, what you talked about and what both sides agreed to do for the other.
Phase 4: Following Through
Review the business cards you’ve collected and the notes on the back of each. Pick the “best leads” and enter their contact info and relevant notes into some kind of tracking and scheduling system like Outlook or Excel before it becomes stale or you forget the information.
As soon as possible, write a quick “greetings e-mail” to your new contacts. Start the e-mail with
something positive like how much you enjoyed your conversation. Restate what you asked for and what you offered them. Describe what you’re doing to follow up.
Make sure you deliver on any promises you made to your contact. If it’s going to take a while to deliver, let the contact know that you’re working on it and keep them apprised of progress. Feel free to drop somebody who has been helpful a note or small gift showing your appreciation for their assistance.
Networking is not easy. It requires a significant investment of effort. But it also offers a high return on investment. Moreover, the skills of networking can be applied not just to job searching but job performance. Consequently, learning how to network can make you a better safety professional.