College and graduate school wasn’t a place where you learned how to network, unless you had a really great advisor who helped mentor you in that way. Whether you learned it then or have never learned to network, start considering the “truths” in this article. See if they are true for you–and maybe ask someone else what they think (particularly ask others who are highly successful in your field).
People cannot hire you, engage you in a project, ask you to be on a team, or support you in what you do if they do not even know you or know what it is that you do. Those of you who are introverts and just prefer never to go out of your offices are pretty shocked by this. Introverts (and lots of others, too!) think that people should know how good they are at what they do. They are surprised when no one calls for their services, inquires about their availability for a project, or asks them to collaborate on an article. You have to get out there, be visible, get out of your comfort zone, and let people know you and what you’re “about.” What drives you? What excites you? Who are you? What do you have to offer others? Is there something that you’re passionate about? Do you have knowledge that would help others if they had access to it? If so, then get on about the business of letting others get to know you.
People will not hire you, engage you in a project, ask you to be on a team, or support you in what you are doing if they don’t like you (or if they know that others will not like or be able to work with you). This is sort of the flip side of the previous “Networking Need-to-Know.” If people get to know you and what you have to offer–and they do not like you, your ethics, your service, your product, your lack of hygiene, your foul language, or whatever it might be that bugs them, then you certainly aren’t going to be able to connect in the way that you might like.
Note: This does not mean that you should be someone you aren’t. Far be it from me to ever say that. What I am saying is this: Make it easy for people to want to work with you. Be responsive. Be prompt on delivering what you say you will. As you network, demonstrate your interest in others and what they need.
Know who to network with. Sometimes people think, ‘Well, there isn’t really anyone I know with whom I could network.’ Think both narrowly and broadly.
Check out these examples and possibilities (and just write down a few names next to each of these):
- Family & friends
- People you know only socially
- Professional contacts
- Contacts from your academic life (duh, but I had to say it!)
- Folks in associations to which you belong
- Absolute strangers (albeit not strange ones, though!)
- People whom you might be able to help but who would not necessarily be able to help you.
- People in a completely different field from the one you’re in.
- People who are quite a bit different in age from you–much younger or much older.
Just try out one new thought from this article and put it into practice. See what happens. It can’t hurt and it might really help! For additional helpful ideas, visit the Top Ten Productivity Tips series.