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Part 1: Networking for Your Career – Why Network?

Part 1 of a three-part series on networking:

Part 1 Why Network

How does it help?

The first steps to keep in touch

How to use social media to passively network

When should you link with someone on LinkedIn?

Don’t be fake

Part 2 The Art of Networking

When do you need a networking campaign?

The 4 steps of a networking campaign

1. Track activity

2. Decide whom to call

3. Choose your form of contact

4. Practice what to say

Part 3 The Benefits of Networking

Prepare for the meeting

Write the agenda

Specific questions

Follow up

Pay it forward

Networking is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced, like a new language. Having a step-by-step process makes it easier. It will seem awkward at first, like the first time you asked someone for a date. But trust me when I tell you it gets easier with time.

Why network?

For most people, networking continuously will make work better and easier for you. It will also help you advance throughout your career.

Networking means staying connected and continually meeting new people. For the purpose of this series, I’m talking about a networking campaign, which occurs during a specific time period when you do a series of events until you accomplish your goal, like getting a job. This isn’t about going to networking events, though they can certainly help in the long term for learning about your industry or getting out there to meet new people.

If you don’t know what to do with your career, you’re not ready for networking.

How does it help?

When you need a favor and when you have a business question, networking provides you with someone to ask. Having a professional resource, you can trust from outside your company can often help whether you need a technical answer, advice on a career move or a confidential background check on someone you are interviewing.

Early in my career I kept an address book, lists of all of the people I knew and a Rolodex. (Google this if you don’t know what it means.) Eventually, my life changed with the addition of the incredible Radio Shack TRS-80. I built my first database and all of my disparate information became searchable.

Have you heard the story that George Bush was originally elected—in part—because of his enormous Rolodex.

All politics aside, he was a great networker. Over many years he made a note anytime he met anyone, how he knew them, what he knew about them and what he did for them. He kept all the information in his Rolodex, which he took across the country and used to orchestrate fundraising parties to launch his campaign.

First step to keep in touch

Technology and social media give you plenty of options for keeping in touch.

1. LinkedIn: Among Americans with college degrees, LinkedIn is the No. 1 social media platform. (No, LinkedIn doesn’t pay me anything.) When you meet someone, you can link with them immediately by sending a note. Then keep in touch.

2. Instagram, Twitter or Facebook: Use the same method and link with those people. Whatever you choose, have some way to keep track of all of your contacts in one place. An address book, contacts list, phone app–whatever works for you.

3. Text or email: Do you prefer the more direct method? After meeting, ask if it’s ok if you reach out to follow up next week about something you discussed. Then keep in touch.

How to use social media to passively network

Networking means that when someone posts a question asking for advice, you comment publicly or message them privately to help them out. If they are hiring and you can recommend someone, let them know. If you read their articles and have something interesting to share, share it. When you see an article about fishing and it makes you think of someone you know, forward it to them with a quick, “hey I thought of you today,” note. This is a great way to maintain the relationship and build your network.

When should you link with someone on LinkedIn?

Link with someone you meet if you want to keep in touch, are interested in what they post or might be looking to work at their company in the future. Don’t link if you don’t respect them or you thought they were unprofessional. It’s a pretty easy choice.

Don’t be fake

If you think networking is scary it’s probably because you think it’s forced or insincere. Be natural and honest. Be yourself. You won’t hate it as much.

How has networking helped you in your personal or work life? What piece of networking advice do you cherish most? Let me know below in the comments.

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