Networking 102

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Guest blog post by Isaac Henry. Networking is an important part of your life-long career. Read about some great ideas to enhance your presence online and in person. Isaac summarizes it nicely by writing, “You are selling who you are and what you do, all while being helpful and kind to those you are working with.”

Be sure to read the other networking articles: Networking 101, Networking 103, Networking 104, and Networking in Japan: How to Find a Job as an LGBTQIA+ Person.

Networking for Your Career

As we know by now, the most difficult part of any job is networking. Whether you know it or not, you are always networking just by meeting other people and maintaining relationships

The most difficult part of networking is maintaining your relationships. If you maintain relationships with others well, then networking may not be that big of a challenge; however, we have had a serious change to our workplace. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has flipped our world upside-down, and instantly almost every networking tool we have suddenly doesn’t matter or can’t be applied to these online situations. For safety’s sake even now we must hold off meeting in person and switch to promoting ourselves online until it is safe again to have in-person meetings with conventional networking tactics. 

In the meantime, we have to work with the hand that we have been dealt. We have to figure out how to network online to be effective at our jobs. We have to figure out who to reach out to, why they matter to our objective, and then how to gain their continued support until we reach our goal. 

Outreaching Your Competition

The first step to continuing your progress is reaching out over the various social media platforms. You need to know which social media platform(s) to target. We all know that LinkedIn has taken a huge step forward in helping with this need. They know how to do basic networking and will be able to help you in your first few steps. Even though they may have the connections to begin networking, they don’t tell you who you should be targeting to effectively network. 

Sometimes we cannot reach out to the person we need to connect and network with right out of the gate. We need to find someone who is a station below them, or perhaps even two stations down, and work our way up to the person we need. We can work our way up the ladder in several ways. We need to keep constant and genuine communication. This means checking in with them to keep you and what you do at the forefront of their mind. You must offer to help more than you receive. For instance; if there is any way you can help, offer it to them in your communication. 

However, when you do finally ask for that introduction or some other form of help, be careful that you aren’t asking for more than you have given. This will keep the relationship between you and your contact very formal and put the relationship in no danger of being stressed or making them feel used. Once you have moved on to get closer to the person you need, keep the communication going and keep them up to date. If you are worried about overcommunication, I guarantee they will tell you. Never abandon or burn a bridge you have spent time building. 

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Okay, Now What? 

We have our connections, we have found our needed connection and are in communication with them. Now what do we do? We expand, strengthen, and inform. By expanding I mean expanding your network both horizontally and vertically. Reaching out to others in “stations” similar to your level and both those above and below your level, along with gaining more of a presence online. Getting your name and what you do out into the platforms helps. This is the time to do some self-promoting and marketing

You are selling who you are and what you do, all while being helpful and kind to those you are working with.

Isaac Henry

You are selling who you are and what you do, all while being helpful and kind to those you are working with. This will increase not only your reputation with those you have met, but gives those with who you haven’t yet connected an idea of how you work. 

Self-promotion is a key factor in setting yourself up to grow horizontally and vertically. By being kind and helpful, those you have worked with or are working with are more likely to spread your name around if someone notices your collaborative work. In turn, they will spread your name and work among those that your partner works with, which will spread your name and influence horizontally. By working these connections and beginning to work with their bosses and other colleagues, your influence will rise “above” your station and you will begin growing vertically. Being a predictable businessperson is a good factor to have attached to you while you spread your name. Surprisingly, people don’t like unpredictability especially when it comes to their business. The same goes for their contacts.

If you miss an opportunity or fail at some objective, then that added weight follows you and affects your reputation. By properly strengthening your network and expanding it, you are adding more credibility to your name and work. This gives you more opportunities down the road to build bigger connections and potentially even save some faith in your work should you make a mistake. 

Offer to Connect Others

Speaking of building connections, connect your contacts to each other as well. This will only give you more structure for your base. The more you connect your network and the stronger your whole network becomes, the more solid the foundation for all in the network to rise. The way that you will notice your influence growing is when people start knowing your name or business. That gives you an indication of how far your outreach and influence go. 

Once again, you want your influence to grow horizontally and vertically with your business contacts. By horizontally, that means your influence is spreading among colleagues on your own “level.” Spreading your influence vertically means that people both above and below your “level” are learning of your influence and your mission. This gives you an increased favorable reputation as well as increased status in your field. 

Informing your colleagues and followers is another key to rising in power and status. By getting word out about the upcoming Zoom meeting with influential names and voices in your field and getting others to participate is paramount. Getting the word out about how that Zoom meeting went after the fact is another factor to the whole experience. 

The constant communication that you have with your connections should be mirrored in your information. You should be updating your profile daily, letting people know about new events and even breakthroughs in your field as often as you can. This gains more trust from those following you and those connected with you. Keep it in mind that every event or article that pertains to you will pertain to those that follow you as well, which means it will intrigue your audience. Letting people know about events extends your kindness in that you are not only giving an opportunity to catch up with them, but for them to network and be successful as well. 

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How to Finish Your “Rise to Power”

You have your network figured out, you have a strong base, you have followers, and you have accepted colleagues, but now where do we go for opportunity? 

It is now falling on you to create your opportunity. That means hosting online events, gathering your colleagues and followers, and getting them to network for you in addition to what you do. How you reach out about upcoming events means that they will now too. This further expands your network in influence as you are now becoming a voice in your field. 

Now to host the actual event, in addition to having your event topic, location (either Zoom, Skype, even Microsoft Teams), you also need another guest speaker. This is an important part of your event, so you have to prepare ahead and pick the right person. This person can be anyone from a professor at your local college to a colleague of yours that shares interesting ideas and is another voice on your topic/area of interest. This second person should share similar ideas and interesting viewpoints. While this is happening, via the chat feature of your event or any way you can, you should be reaching out to those who have shown up to your event. Everything from simply asking how they are doing to their thoughts on how the event is going, keeping communication up and running is a key feature to these events. Keeping them engaged in what is happening is how you will entice them to come again and bring a friend next time. 

After these events, it is recommended that you communicate to your network what happened, how the meeting went, and even make room for comments on how to improve your future meetings. Some examples of what you can do for your networking event are to choose debates or mixer-style games. Just be sure that everyone that comes to your event leaves with something of value or information they can remember. You want them to remember this event you are hosting so they will hopefully come to your next event and potentially even bring more people to the party. 

Future Moves to Plan

Now that you have had your event, you have strengthened and expanded your network, now you can plan for future events and use these new habits to effectively create a strong network of support that will outlast this Covid-19 pandemic. Once we can safely meet in person, we can further strengthen the connections we have begun online and solidify our networking base even further. Since you have created your desired base of support, you can begin diversifying your network connections. 

Other networks and businesses have theories that are now available to help connect your network. Along with this, anything that is connected to your business/area of interest can be connected. This allows for the continued vertical and horizontal expansion of your network and contacts. The more contacts you have, the bigger outreach potential your influence and message. Followed by continued events and further outreach, at each event you should connect more people not only with yourself but with each other. That is how you maximize your chances to connect to other colleagues and future contacts. 

With these tools in mind, you can begin to forge your way to be a leading voice in your community. With these tools, you can effectively network and create new opportunities not only for yourself but for your colleagues as well.

Be sure to read the other networking articles: Networking 101, Networking 103, Networking 104, and Networking in Japan: How to Find a Job as an LGBTQIA+ Person.

Writer’s Bio: 

Isaac Henry is a Content Creator for IGNITE and an office intern for a State of Michigan Representative. He is also a sophomore at Michigan State University double-majoring in Japanese and International Relations. He intends to live abroad and even aims to become a Foreign Service Officer. He loves content creation and enjoys doing the work as it feels natural to him. If you want to let him know how this article has affected you, or you have questions, please reach out to him either on his LinkedIn Profile or Facebook and send him a message! Please feel free to even send him an email; he is always open to communication! 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/isaac-henry

Email: ihenry2283@gmail.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/isaac.henry.54

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