Put Your Network to Work

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When people think of networking, they often think about how to expand the size of their network. This article is going to give you tips on how to harness the power of your existing network to achieve your goals.

To bring this to life, let’s take an example of Susan, a client I worked with recently. When I first began coaching her, Susan was frustrated with her current job and was ready to make a career change. However, she had been so focused on doing her day- to-day work that she had invested little to no time maintaining or building her network within or outside the company. Sound familiar? Read on to learn more about the process we used to help her make a change and put her network to work:

1. Brainstorm a list of five contacts that can help, in the context of your specific goal.

After outlining Susan’s ideal next role in marketing, we brainstormed names of five individuals she should reach out to. I challenged her to think about personal and professional relationships. Just taking 10 minutes to go through this exercise helped Susan think of people she had completely overlooked.

2. Determine the current and desired strength of your relationship with them.

Using a scale of 0-10, we rated the strength of Susan’s existing relationship with each of these five individuals. For the people that Susan had very strong relationships with already, she rated them a “10” and for those she had never met, she rated them a “0.” We also used the same scale to determine what she wanted the strength of the relationship to become over the next 6 months to a year. These ratings helped her focus and prioritize her efforts.

3. Identify someone who can introduce you to the people you have not met.

For the individual that Susan did not personally know on her list, she identified someone in her current network who knew him or could at least help identify the right next step to meet him.

4. Develop specific relationship-building strategies by person.

Next, Susan and I brainstormed at least one or two strategies to further build the relationships with each of the five individuals. Sometimes, this is where people get stuck – especially if they already feel pressed for time. Just remember, networking does not have to be time consuming. It can be as simple as sending someone an article that’s relevant to them, sharing information on an upcoming event that they may want to attend, making a point to introduce yourself at a meeting, or asking them for a 15- minute meeting to get their input on something you are working on or getting career advice.

Just remember that the goal is to network in a way that is authentic for you and leaves a positive impression. So, as you develop these strategies think about what you want the other person to remember about you.

5. Set deadlines for each strategy.

Finally, to really put some accountability in place, I asked Susan to set deadlines for each of the networking strategies she identified. This helped her maintain focus and track progress.

I am very excited to tell you that Susan put her network to work, and got her dream job (which was also a promotion for her) in three months! She moved into a very different type of role than she has had held in the past. Even though this example is about career transition, the steps above can be applied to any goal. How do you want to put your network to work in 2010?

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