One of the most common complaints I hear from clients looking to further their career is “I can’t network. I don’t know anyone.” This is said by everyone from recent college grads to senior level executives. It’s common to think we only know family members and coworkers. We cringe at the word “networking” as we often think it means sliming someone with a business card and trying to sell them something. This myth about networking makes us shy away from the idea that we could actually already have a network. More often than not, that network will help you make your next career move within your current organization or with a new one.
No matter their tenure, everyone who says this receives the same assignment (yes, coaching comes with homework). Each client is required to make a list of who they know. This is not a list of your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or Linkedin connections. This is a list of actual people you know. The people on this list would recognize you if you walked up to them on the street and said hello. Got it? Real people. Now, these people don’t have to live in your community and they don’t have to be people you see often but they have to be a “real life” connection. I also encourage everyone to make this list on an old fashion legal pad. Grab a pen and a notepad and start writing. No electronic devises. People seem to connect with this process better when writing it down (I’m sure there’s a reason behind this-we’ll get to that in another post).
Once you have a list of people you know, ask yourself the following about each of them:
- Where do they work?
- Where do they live?
- Where do they worship?
- Where do their kids go to school?
- Where do they workout?
- What do they do for fun?
- Where do they volunteer?
Once you answer those questions ask yourself the following questions about the same person:
- Who do they work with or do business with?
- Who do they live with? Who are they related to? Who are they in a relationship with?
- Who do they worship with?
- Who do their kids go to school with? Who are the teachers, professors, etc?
- Who do they workout with? Who belongs to their gym? Who takes the same yoga class they do?
- Who do they socialize with? Who do they play golf with?
- Who do they volunteer with? Who serves on the same boards or committees they do?
As you begin to answer these questions about each person on your list you’ll start to see how vast your network really is. Once you understand “who’s who” in your network you know where to begin making connections. Perhaps your best friend serves on board with an expert in your profession that he’s willing to introduce you to. Perhaps your next door neighbor plays volleyball with the HR manager for a company you’re interested in working for and she’s willing to put in a good word for you.
Building the networking list will certainly help you determine who to approach but before you do, you’ll need to understand how to approach them. Keep an eye out for more of our Networking 101 blog posts to learn more on the right way to approach “networking”.