[This article is based on the following book: Effective Networking for Professional Success: How to Beat your Competition to New Jobs and Contracts by Rupert Hart, Stirling Books, 1997, 125 pages]
We are living in an age of corporate downsizing, and freelance consultants, or self-employed workers are growing by the day. Networking is one skill you need to practice to get ahead and survive these uncertain times.
Wisdom in a Nutshell:
- Networking is essential for both new jobs and business contracts.
- Effective networking is 12 times more effective than answering advertisements.
- Advertising is becoming ineffective except on a large scale.
- Networking helps you find hidden opportunities and can set you apart from the competition.
- An indirect approach is better than a direct one. Use someone you know to introduce you to your target contact. Never go straight to your target without a go-between who will put in a good word for you.
- You can overcome your natural shyness, your fear of using people, and your fear of rejection.
The 3 key networking techniques are:
- Build a network of partners to keep an open eye and ear for new opportunities for You.
- Reach targeted individuals in two ways: directly or indirectly.
- Build visibility by raising your profile. Go to every social gathering you possibly can.
Building your network is an ongoing process. You need to increase your range of contacts constantly.
Planning your campaign:
- Define your objective.
- Select the right technique.
- Understand that deal flow or your number of prospects must be great in order to bag one new business contract.
- Identify your target.
- Work out your positioning. This is a short statement of what you are about, what you can offer.
- Think about what you can do for your network partners in exchange for information and contacts.
Building Network partners:
- Talk to everyone you know about opportunities.
- Clarify what network partners can and will do for you.
- Know which contacts to build into network partners.
- Find those friendly network spiders, those types of people who just seem to know everyone.
- Use the telephone.
How to grow and refresh your network:
- Go out of your way to be where people are.
- Get into the habit of being talkative.
- Get the contact details of people you meet. Not just exchanging business cards but stapling information like birthdays, anniversaries, hobby clubs, and key information onto their cards.
- Choose the right method for the right person.
- Warm up long-cold contacts.
How to find targeted individuals:
- Focus on what you want to achieve and how people can help you.
- Use your network partners to find suitable companies.
- Gather key information on these companies.
- Figure out who is the one with the power to hire you.
- Find people connections and common areas of interest.
Reaching targets through network partners:
- Find and persuade the best partner for your targeted individual.
- Engineer an introduction.
- Build word-of-mouth exchanges about yourself.
Reaching targets directly:
- Decide if you should write a letter or not.
- Be able to demonstrate your achievements.
- Have a line ready to get you past the secretary.
- Act as though you expect to be put through.
- Be ready to leave a short, persuasive message for the decision-maker.
Your opening line:
- Be cheerful, confident and straightforward.
- Exploit connections and recommendations.
- Mention common interests.
- Report news of interest to the target.
- Wait for a response. Know when to shut up.
- Write down your opening lines before picking up the phone.
How to be visible without really trying:
- Ask a question at a conference.
- Make a point in a meeting.
- Write letters to your industry magazine.
- Introduce yourself to lots of people at an industry show or ball.
- Buy people a drink at the bar at a lecture.
- Discuss a book with an industry leader.
- Wear bright ties.
- Make people laugh.
- Have an opinion on everything. (But keep an open mind)
- Hand out an unusual business card.
- Recast your CV to be a little different.
- Take up an unusual hobby. (But not too unusual)
- Don’t overlook using the email and Internet to communicate your cause.