You continue to hear that networking is one of the best ways to advance in your career and identify the best talent. However, have you changed the way you build both your professional and personal networks recently? The workforce and workplace have changed dramatically and so has how to effectively network.
You can’t keep doing things the same way and expect different results. You first must analyze what you are currently doing to determine what is notworking. You then need to identify which results you want to achieve by effectively building your professional and personal network. You can easily complete this exercise by filling out the GAP Analysis Worksheet.
A Gap Analysis is a strategic planning tool to help you understand where you are, where you want to be (the results you want to achieve), and how you are going to get there.
There is a simple five step process you can follow when conducting a Gap Analysis. The sample topic listed is “Increasing my Professional Network.” Answer the four remaining questions:
||Where Are You Now
||Where Would You Like To Be
||What Is Your Gap
||How Do You Fill The Gap
|Building my Professional Network.
Networking is building alliances throughout your entire life. Another exercise that could help you improve your networking efforts is to utilize the SWOT method when evaluating your networking abilities. This is something you should implement and teach the people you supervise how to implement.
Let me give you some examples:
- Strengths: Relationships with individuals inside and outside of your profession
- Weaknesses: Not consistently increasing my network
- Opportunities: Interactions with clients, prospects, and during business functions.
- Threats: Other priorities
SAMPLE NETWORKING TARGETS:
Professional Associations – Professional associations represent the leaders in any profession. It is their job to keep members informed and they are very well networked. Their websites and publications are filled with networking opportunities. Think of the Professional Associations that you support and identify others that would enhance your professional network.
Non-Profit Groups – What philanthropic endeavors does your company support. What non-profit groups do you support? Most executives and company leadership see the value of volunteering their time as they “pay it forward” by helping others.
Many well-networked leaders sit on the boards of these groups and would greatly enhance your professional network. This provides you with a double win. You are helping others while you are also adding great contact to your network.
Service or Civic Clubs – The members of service clubs like the Rotary, Exchange Club, Kiwanis, and others are often businesspeople who are well connected. You might be thinking you don’t have time to get involved in a service club. However, when you think of the individuals you will meet, you probably can’t afford not to get involved. Rotary normally meets at a weekly luncheon, where other groups often only meet monthly.
Clubs – Think about your hobbies, interests, or anything else that evokes your passion. You could build your professional or personal network at a bird watching outing or train show. You can identify clubs based on specific interests at www.meetup.com. Suggest this to the people you supervise.
Religious Organizations – Many executives take on a leadership role in their religious community. Places of worship have many groups or committees that need volunteers. Members of these committees are the type of people who are more than wiling to connect. You will be able to share your expertise while you build your Professional and Personal networks.
Business Functions and Business after Hours – Attend conferences, meetings, and any other type of business events in order to meet people who are connected. Rather than just having casual conversations, set a goal for each event of how many people you plan to include in your network. Learn how to connect with other attendees immediately on LinkedIn utilizing your cell phone.
Friends and Family – Never underestimate the value of your personal network. You don’t know who your friends, neighbors, or family might know who could become a valued member of your network who could help you attain some of your future goals or objectives.
Next, let’s address how to become comfortable with networking.
As a leader, you may be very comfortable learning to small talk with others, the people you supervise may find this challenging. Encourage them to accept invitations and talk to others.
Teach them to position themselves by the food, bathroom, or exit. This is where they have the best chance to meet the most people. Be kind to everyone you meet throughout your day and start to talk to people you don’t know. Remember, contacts you make should become lifetime members of your Professional Network.
Allow Enough Time For Networking – Connections are not established in a day. Rapport and trust develop over time. Start out discussing what is important to the other person. Advance to conversations about common interests or possibly invite them to have a cup of coffee. When you get to know people on a personal level you can elevate that relationship to a business contact.
Help Others Network – Whenever possible, introduce other people to someone who could possibly benefit from the introduction. This compliments both people involved, and they will be more likely to return the favor to you. Once you establish a good relationship with a contact, they will be happy to refer you to people they know. You must become comfortable asking people in your network to introduce or connect you to people they know.
Online Resources – Imagine the impact if you write a blog on topics in your field that positions you as a subject matter expert. Many sites have message boards or discussion groups which can elevate your exposure to individuals who will want to become a part of your network.
Show Your Gratitude – Call or send a thank you note or card to anyone who helps you build your network. Email is easier but is impersonal. When you show gratitude, you will receive more referrals and again this enhances the quality of individual you attract to your network.
In the past, relationship came and went based on where you lived, worked, and socialized. Technology has changed the landscape of networking. You can now establish lifelong relationships with the individuals in your network, regardless of where they live or work. Networking will greatly enhance your career growth, the level of success you achieve and the number of people you will inspire along the way.
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