I recently spoke with Pat Romboletti and during our conversation she shared with me her thoughts on different aspects of networking. Pat is an ExecuNet career strategist, LinkedIn expert, recruiter, and facilitator of our Atlanta networking meetings. I enjoyed the conversation so much I wanted to share some highlights here for those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to speak with her.
It’s pretty simple, but if you follow this advice you’ll be an effective networker.
What Can I Do for You?
A founding principle of ExecuNet, this is the foundation of networking success. You cannot be a successful networker if you’re leading with what you need/want. Instead look to help others, and they will look to repay the favor. This applies even when you’re looking for a job. Unemployed executives can still be useful; don’t forget that about others or yourself! Your most pressing need may be finding a job, but that’s not the case for people you need help from. Instead, focus on their needs to get your own met.
When the Well Runs Dry
If you neglected your network because you were too busy with doing your job and caring for your family, you aren’t alone. Asking a neglected network for help won’t get results. So what’s the owner of a neglected network to do? Pat suggests getting to work earning the right to leverage those relationships again. She suggests scheduling time each week to reach out to one’s network with articles, check-in notes, offers to help with projects (that you’re aware of from check-ins), and offers to connect them with others in your network who you think they should know.
- Articles: The articles must be specific to the person. meaning just because they are in HR you don’t send them an HR-related article. It must be something directly connected to a specific area they’re interested in.
- Check-ins: Are all about them. Find out what’s going on with the contact at work and at home. get a sense of what’s important to them. You cannot connect with someone until you really understand what they care about. “If you don’t know something about a person that’s important to that person’s life… they aren’t a real networking contact,” said Pat.
- Connecting to others: Put thought into it. Consider who in your network would benefit from meeting each other, and then go ahead and introduce them, explaining why you think they should connect. You’re helping your connections achieve their goals and you become top-of-mind and appreciated by both. Win-win-win!
“People don’t bother to help people who haven’t made deposits in the relationship,” Pat warned. So when you’ve neglected your network make sure you spend a lot of time giving before you even consider asking for anything. “No relationship can survive lack of reciprocal appreciation.” Can’t do something solely to get something back. So as hard as it is when you’re in need of a job, don’t ask for help with your problems. If you don’t want your attempts to reconnect to ring hollow, you can’t ask for help. Instead, share your situation if asked, but focus on common interests and what you can do for them.
“You only get one do-over from most people. You can’t neglect (your network) and then re-ignite it more than once.” If you’re in resurrection mode, do it right, because it’s doubtful you’ll get another chance.
Support. It Does a Career Good
You can’t be a lone ranger. These days, you need a posse.
Spending 10+ years in a role isn’t so common anymore. As a result, executives are always in a state of transition, even when not looking for a job, and require a team of like-minded executives from a variety of industries who are always looking to help each other. Some of that can be done online through LinkedIn, but it’s ideal to have an in-person group to meet with regularly. Pat is the facilitator of ExecuNet’s Atlanta networking meetings. In Atlanta, she’s created the epitome of an ExecuNet networking group. “It’s a career group, not an in-transition group,” stated Pat. “We’re here for all aspects of your career. No one’s bringing 30 copies of their resume, passing them out and leaving.” The group’s about executives finding ways to help each other on the continuum of their careers, in-role and in-search.
“A network that you’re not helping will not help you… it’s not a true network,” cautioned Pat. She continued to explain that these days executives will transition multiple times in a career and your network will be your lifeline.” If you just engage your network when you are in job search mode, when you need them, you’ll end up missing out on much-needed back-up at a crucial time.
Pat’s group stays intact, actively helping each other with in-role and in-search challenges, because the collective is committed to each other, with employed-and-not-looking group members attending meetings regularly to maintain their connections by making deposits into their networking “account” or “digging their well a bit deeper” for when they may need to draw from it. No matter how busy, the group members are all better off when they continue with the group even after they land.
Failure to give back to the network will cause you to lose all your networking capital. Keep that in mind… when you don’t need your network.
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