Chances are, you've been cooped up in your current role in your company without a lot of interaction with other people. It happens. But your career success is dependent on the relationships you have with others. Remember, people hire and do business with those they like and/or know. How can your existing relationships help you improve your career prospects?
Relationships Take Time
You would never make or accept a marriage proposal on a first date. Likewise, you aren't going to land an amazing gig from your first networking meeting. Your goal is to rekindle the relationship during an initial meeting with people. It is your responsibility to make the conversation flow by asking smart, thoughtful questions. Note that not all meetings will transfer into a budding long-term relationship. Move on if the chemistry isn't there. From this point forward, remember to nurture existing relationships by keeping in touch. Connect on LinkedIn if that makes sense, share information about upcoming events, introduce people you think would benefit from knowing one another, congratulate someone when they make the news, connect with them on other social networks they're active on, and just say hello once in awhile. Building relationships takes time and should always be part of a healthy career management strategy.
Start by creating a list of companies you would like to learn more about. This can be a difficult question to answer, but not impossible. Most people are not career counselors and may not have the time or ability to help you figure out what your next career move should be. You need target companies to provide focus and to help people you meet steer you in the right direction. There are millions of companies out there, so how do you pare it down? Figure out what companies have the role you're seeking. For example, if you're seeking a customer service job, almost every business has this role. You need to decide what type of customer service you want to provide. Tap into the expertise of your local research librarian or use LinkedIn to search companies by industry and geography.
Be Strategic and Purposeful
Your time is a limited resource so you'll want to allocate it wisely. Know who you want to meet and most importantly, why. Refer back to your target list of companies and create a list of "must-meet" people who work inside those companies. This will keep you focused. See what groups and activities those "must meet" people belong to. You may find you have similar interests or know people in common. Use this information when you reach out and ask for a meeting. If you aren't tapped into your industry's professional association or a local professional networking group, this would be the time to start. Participating in these live events provides an opportunity to meet new people and learn new things. Monitor your local newspaper for a listing of upcoming events. If you continue to reach out to people you want to know as part of your routine, you'll be better equipped to make a change the next time you need to.
Change Your Mission
You're seeking information. This change alone should make it more palatable for you to get out there and talk to people you should know. When you have a pulse on trends, and understand the needs and wants of companies, it will enable you to engage in meaningful conversation and perhaps present yourself as a viable solution to the company's problems. Yes, people are busy, but they may want to meet with you to share what they know if:
- You reference the name of a person you have in common.
- You are polite, respectful, and have conveyed genuine interest in what they do.
- You don't come across as needy and greedy (it isn't all about you).
Make 2013 the year you "build it before you need it." Reach out and establish relationships with people inside and outside your organization.
Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice; she guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa.