When it comes to getting what you want out of your connections, how effective is your network?
The importance of a strong professional network can’t be overstated. It’s been said that your network is your net worth and, in fact, research shows that who you know can have a big impact on even something as big as landing a job. A recent survey of HR executives found that traditional networking was ranked as the most effective job search method – more effective than social media, online job boards and recruiting firms.
Now, we all have a network. It consists of the people around us, folks with whom we’ve worked in the past, former classmates, friends, etc. But with so much significance placed on a strong network, what are ways to build and harness your network? Not to mention, how to identify is yours is dead?
I spoke recently with Faith McKinney, an expert in connections and radical PR. Known in some circles as “The Great Connector,” she’s also the author of the upcoming book “Schmingling- The Art of Being Well Connected,” due out in the fall. From hosting years of “Successful Thinkers” networking events in Indianapolis, McKinney says she’s learned that the strongest relationships are built face to face and shared her tips to building a better network.
Traditional Networking is Still the Best
Networking over social media platforms is on the rise but McKinney says, as of now, it’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction. If you’re currently in a situation where you’re not meeting people in your industry or forging deep connections, it’s probably because you’re spending too much time online. That doesn’t mean give up on your online efforts but ramp up on events, mixers, seminar, conferences and other opportunities to meet and engage likeminded people. Remember, there are still tons of social and professional organizations that – because of their scale, history and name – will be able to connect you with in meaningful ways with the folks you want to meet.
Figure Out What You Want
“One of the main reasons our networks don’t work is because we’re not clear on what we want and haven’t shared that with our network,” McKinney says. Whether it’s a cocktail mixer, a conference or meeting of your professional organization, her advice before entering any networking opportunity is to first write down the goals you want to achieve out of the opportunity. That goal will become your mission and it’ll help direct your conversation and interaction.
Find The Right Organization
Another important reason to define a networking goal is so you can identify the appropriate networking event and organizations. “Certain types of groups service certain needs, McKinney says. “There are social groups without much structure that serve to just bring people together. Those are often best for young professional who just want to meet people. Then there’s larger, more regimented groups that provide business-to-business support. These are typically industry-specific groups. Lastly, there’s referral-based where there’s only one professional from each industry in each organization. These types of groups are smaller, selective and typically for more seasoned professionals.” McKinney suggest once you’ve identified the group that’s best for you, talk to organization leadership to share a bit about yourself. “A good leader will help you find your place in an organization and help you get what you need out if it,” she says.
Photo Courtesy, SAPStartups.