Working the Network: Networking your way to your next job

More job leads are developed and discovered through networking than any other method — between 40 and 70 percent of jobs are found and filled through networking.

Let’s examine some elements you’ll want to include to ensure networking success:

• Preparation – know what you want: Start by investing some time to clarify whom you want to work with, what skills you have to offer and what you feel you can contribute to an organization. This makes you more strategic and confident as you meet and communicate with others.

• Don’t sell to your network – educate it: Educating your network about the type of business you seek is much more important to your success than “selling” to others. We live in a “me first” society. Focus on being helpful to others. When you seek to bring value or render service to others first, you immediately activate the principle of reciprocation.

Networking is about building personal relationships. The more I network, the more I’ve seen the power of personal interests in making connections. Networking is more than just meeting people, shaking hands and saying, “I need something, maybe you need something too.” Networking is building long-term relationships with people.

• Be proactive with your interactions: As you network, focus on creating and promoting a comfortable experience for both you and the other person. Let’s face it, not all of us were born with a magnetic personality. With that said, whenever you arrive at a meeting, social event or networking event, be prepared with conversation topics. Accept that you will need to follow up and work hard to cultivate reasons for others to want to stay in touch with you.

• Brand you: Your successful professional image projected through your speaking, written communication and social and professional network branding will result in more opportunities for networking. Developing a great “brand” identity and maintaining a good online reputation is of critical importance. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogging, etc., are all media for creating your brand.

• Staying connected: As important as it is to make the initial connection with someone, it is equally, if not more important, to stay in touch with your network. Follow-up is of critical importance. Send an interesting article, point out a helpful Web site, share more information or tips about a subject you talked about, etc. Most of us wait to reach out to our network when we need something. The time to reach out to your network is now and always.

Douglas E. Fowler is business development manager at Alexander Technology Group, with offices in Bedford, N.H., and Woburn, Mass. For more information, visit www.alexandertg.com.