A lot of you have spent weeks, even months, looking for a job in the midst of this latest economic catastrophe. This has been a tough road, indeed, but you’ve finally landed a new job – congratulations! If you are like many of the folks I’ve been working with you’ve been building or rebuilding your network – as a necessary part of job hunting.
Before that, you essentially ignored networking as a necessary professional development activity. After all you were working! You had your head down, busily working and trying to maintain some form of a personal life. You’re only network consisted of people you work with and your close circle of friends. This whole social network phenomenon really escaped you – until you were unemployed. Uh oh!
Starting to build your network from the ground up was painful, exhausting and a bit embarrassing (since you were reconnecting with long lost colleagues only because you needed a job). You’ve also probably promised yourself that once you found a job you would keep in touch with everyone so this experience NEVER repeats itself. That’s a good start – you will absolutely keep your resolution for the first 2 weeks of your new position. That is, until you get busy again. DANGER!
That resolution to maintain, and continue building your network is absolutely critical to your professional success. Here are a few ideas for staying on top of it:
1. Send a thank you note to EVERYONE in your network that helped you, supported you, took your calls and met with you during your search. This exercise has multiple benefits. First, you’re letting them know you’ve landed, and this is a great time to profess your gratitude. You are evangelizing on behalf of your new company – acting as an unofficial sales, marketing or recruiting agent. You are updating your new contact information so that your network doesn’t lose touch with you – since you’ve worked SOOOO hard to build it.
2. Commit to attending 1 networking event per week. This is the hardest task. Yep, we all have lives outside of our professional lives. But remember when you started your search? You had NO ONE, no idea where to begin and very little traction from which to start. Don’t repeat that mistake! There are bountiful opportunities to stay out in front of professionals in every major city. Commit one event per week as an investment in your professional capital.
3. Download the Outlook toolbar for Linked In. This amazing tool helps you keep up to date with changes that are happening with people in your network. You’ll find a tiny link at the VERY BOTTOM of your Linked In page – very small print – that says “tools”. Get the Outlook Toolbar and watch the amazing dashboard action. It will remind you to stay in touch, let you update your contact list when changes occur, and suggest contacts you might want to add based on your email exchanges. I use the dashboard to send personal notes of congratulations to my network contacts that get promotions, new jobs, or relocate. And the best part is the GRAB function. You simply highlight a contact’s email signature and POOF! You have a new Outlook contact – no more typing in business card information – INCREDIBLE!
4. Take calls from people who are referred to you and HELP THEM. Remember when you were asking for introductions and referrals into companies? Well, it’s time to return the favor. Karma!
5. Return every call to the recruiters you want to maintain contact with – offer them referrals freely and share postings around your network. Recruiters rely on their network for in depth searches – after all, great talent hangs with other great talent. And, those recruiters will remember who helps them – they will return the favor the next time you are in need.
6. Monitor your Linked In Groups and Facebook Pages – participate in discussions, ask for advice, offer your expertise. Become a recognized thought leader in your industry (or function) and you will remain at the top of mind in your professional circle. If you read an interesting article, share it with your connections or groups. Honestly, technology makes it SO easy to do – there really is no excuse.
7. Read and absorb business news. Don’t stop being interested in what’s happening in your local economy just because you don’t need the information any longer. Stay on top of your industry, your local market and develop yourself by monitoring emerging trends. It will make you a much more interesting person to talk to.
8. Continue to expand your network. When you meet someone new – internally at your new company or externally (customers, business partners, competitors, and other professionals) connect with them. You may not need their help today, but you might want the ability to ask for their help in the future.
Congratulations on your new position – my best wishes for your continued success – and may you never again live with the anxiety of not being connected when you are looking for a job.
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