The Networking Game | Map your contacts, Get top of mind for your contacts, Get top of mind for your contacts…See more details below;
Chances are that most of the opportunities that you will access in your life — both longer term career opportunities and side gigs, promotions, and other business opportunities — will not come through applying coldly to postings you find online. Even when you apply to opportunities directly, there’s a chance the hiring manager reaches out to a mutual connection to get an inside scoop on you.
The majority of opportunities you benefit from will come from recommendations and shared links by people in your network.
Read: Places to Look for Job Postings | Job Boards, Company Websites, Networking
The Networking Game
The main goals of playing the networking game are to:
Level 1: Map your contacts (i.e., get a good understanding of who is in your network).
Level 2: Get top of mind for your contacts (i.e., let them know you’re looking, your key strengths and how they can help you)
Level 3: Surface valuable information, assets or opportunities from them – and also give value to them when you can!
QUICK NOTE before we delve into the how. You might be worried: “But I don’t know a lot of people. Help! My network isn’t rich enough to yield opportunities.” This is a false, self-limiting belief. Our networks, even when small, are infinitely powerful. Those you know are connected to others who are connected to others.
Finally, the networking game is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to keep being an engaged and committed citizen of your network.
Provide value to your network by sharing useful resources, making helpful recommendations and connections and keeping your network updated on your growth.
Level 1: Map Your Own Network
Level 1: Map your Network: “Awareness precedes action.” -Steve Boelke, leadership expert
To play the networking game well, you must first know who’s on your team — who’s in your network. This is what the mapping exercise is about.
On the course of Mapping Your Own Nnetwork, you should be able to answer:
- Why is it paramount to be clear on what you want from members of your network before reaching out to them?
- Why is it important to define your value proposition and what you stand for as you map your network? How does this relate to the personal brand exercise from earlier in the course?
Exercise on Mapping Your Own Network
- Make a thorough list of people you know in your life. You can do this by considering each relationship category and listing everyone you can think of who could potentially know a way of helping you:
- Friends and contact lists
- Alumni at all different levels of schooling
- Teachers and mentors
- Work, business and internships colleagues
- Church, mosque and other community organizations
- LinkedIn and social media
- Sports, arts or other interest-based communities you’ve engaged with
- Business cards you have collected over time
- Gauge your closeness to each of the contacts. List if they are in your inner circle, middle circle, or outer circle.
- Evaluate how each of the different contacts might be able to help you reach your goals and how you might tailor the message to them if you reach out to them.
Tips for Effective In-Person Networking
Even though social media and the pandemic have moved most networking engagements online, face-to-face networking is still an extremely valuable skill to hone if you want to build strong relationships with potential employers, investors, mentors, and clients.
Read below to see key tips on how to excel at in-person networking sessions:
Come prepared with a clear goal in mind.
Have some relevant conversation starters.
Introduce yourself to someone who is a bigger deal than you.
Ask people questions about themselves.
Ask for what you want, but be clear it’s mutually beneficial.
Exit a conversation gracefully.
Level 2: Reach Out With Asks
If you are asking for something you need to make your request specific, reasonable and relevant. Ask only 1 thing of each person, so as not to burden them. Make it easy for them to say yes by doing as much of the work as possible. Here are some examples of requests you might make:
- An informational interview to learn more about what they do and what you might do to arrive at a similar place.
- To review and give feedback on one of your application assets (e.g., resume, cover letter, portfolio, or LinkedIn profile).
- If they know of any roles in their organizations that could be a fit for you.
- To write a LinkedIn recommendation or letter of recommendation (especially if you’ve worked with the person directly).
- A small number of specific questions you have about your career that the person is relevant to respond to given their skills and experience.
- Ideas for specific organizations or roles that would fit your strengths and interests.
And remember to offer something in return! This shows gratitude for their time and energy. Be creative!
Level 3: Make Thoughtful Follow-Ups
In some cases, people will respond to your message almost immediately – and in some cases, they might take several days or not respond at all.
Keep an eye on your inbox to ensure you get back quickly to anyone who responds. Be proactive and grateful for the support they offer. If you’re scheduling a time to meet, make specific suggestions for time slots or ask them to share some slots that work for them. Be as flexible as possible to accommodate their times.
If the person does not respond, do NOT barrage them with ungracious emails or messages.
Firstly, don’t take it too personally, people are juggling lots of professional and personal responsibilities and so if they don’t get back to you, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ghosting you. Also, you need to walk the fine line between being persistent and becoming annoying in the follow-ups.
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