We discussed networking before – but since it’s a tricky topic for some, I thought I’d add some thoughts on how to kickstart your networking habit, right now.
Build your network now, you never know when you need it. Tapping it only when you need it is short term thinking and an ineffective strategy in the long run. Once you get into the routine (just like studying for the CFA exams), you’ll discover that networking is a skill that anyone can learn, it just requires practice – and you’re already a pro at that with the CFA training anyway.
So let’s get started!
Start with a list of 20 people you’d like to connect with, start building those relationships today. Doing it only when you need it is too late, simply because good relationships (just like friends) take time to find and build!.
Who should be in this list? It could be people in your target industry of choice, peers, ex-colleagues, headhunters, etc. Typically in that order of importance. Spend some time researching the specific person you want to meet, and check whether you have friends that know them already and would introduce you directly. I personally would focus on this more than the usual ‘networking events’.
Start small, aim to connect professionally twice a week. Feel free to increase as you see fit, but it’s all about making it a habit so it comes naturally to you.
Who are the super networkers? You can spot them quite easily: they’re friendly, they know a ton of people (check out their Facebook or LinkedIn contacts) and quite busy generally. Oh, don’t forget to spruce up your CV and LinkedIn profile too.
Send a nice and brief email, or make a quick call. Ask them for help & advice over coffee. Take a genuine interest in them too, you’re building a relationship (and friendship) after all. It’s not a transaction. People will always prioritize helping people that they like.
How do you be like them? Easy. Take an interest in others, ask questions, and more importantly listen and remember. Once in a while, think of two people who should know each other but don’t, and introduce them. Follow up with them later to learn whether that introduction was worthwhile, so you can get better at making introductions. Keep on practising, and watch your network grow.
Try not be transactional about networking. Do not offer something because you want something in return. Instead, show a genuine interest in something you and the other person have in common.
When it comes to asking for a favour – BE SPECIFIC. Explain your (career) objectives clearly and whether he or she would make an introduction to person X, provide you a reference, give you an interview, send your CV directly to person X, advice on making the career switch etc.
Good relationships take time, but not as long as you think if you work on it but let it develop as its natural pace. It’s kinda like dating really. Rushing makes things awkward and weird.
Because relationships are progressions, follow-ups are important. If you’ve bad memory, make notes about the person and summarize the meeting outcome in a spreadsheet to remind you. It’s OK to email, but bear in mind that their inbox are probably swamped. Follow up by email again after a week even if you have not heard back. It’s OK if that person doesn’t respond, every bit helps to remind him/her of you, and sometimes they just don’t have time to respond, but it doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten about you, especially if you’ve been writing to offer a connection or relevant information to that person, i.e. looking out for them.
Humans have a tendency to want to reciprocate, so the more you show you’re looking out for someone, the more likely that person will begin to keep you in mind as well.
Review your efforts after 1 month and meeting 20 new people. You’ll be surprised how many more new opportunities you’ve discovered through this.
Do you have further tips to add? Up for taking the 1 month networking challenge? Let us know in the comments below or share your progress with us in the Forum!