This is a guest post from Stuart Fried, a local career and job search coach with over 28 years of experience. Learn more at www.careerspecialist1.wordpress.com.
We hear so much about networking, networking, networking, and it seems to have almost become a bad word, and something we avoid, unless we have to do it!
I’ve blogged numerous times about why and how you should be networking; I’ve also spoken to numerous job support groups, professional associations and student groups about the value and necessity of networking. Many other career coaches and small business consultants harp on the same subject. Yet, we know that the vast of majority of us only network when we seemingly have to.
I have had many clients vocally agree that they should be networking, and then they go back to job searching on the internet job sites. I have had many others say that they don’t have time or need to network as they’re working and not looking for a new job. I wrote specifically about why you should be networking while you are working.
So, let’s all agree that networking is important, and we should be doing it all the time. We also know that it is difficult for many, even when they have the time and motivation.
I want to help you make it a “Habit” and one that is easily obtained and retained.
When I first joined a gym, I committed to going 3-4 times a week, and you all know how that turned out. As soon as something got in the way, I couldn’t stick to my schedule. The next time I joined a gym, I committed to going only 2 times a week, and it worked! Why? It was realistic, doable, and even enjoyable. Instead of beating myself up for when I didn’t go, I was able to keep to the commitment because it was less demanding, and there was more flexibility to fit it in with my weekly schedule. Over time, I developed the habit of going to the gym twice a week, I built up my muscles and cardio, and I felt better physically and mentally.
Networking can be and should be the same. Start small and slowly. Here are some steps that you can realistically do to make networking a habit:
- Commit to doing it. Just make the commitment that you will do this, and you’re on your way.
- Make a list of people with whom you would like to get in touch – maybe some former co-workers or friends with whom you have been out of touch for a long time. Maybe some people who have been key contacts throughout your career.
- Set a goal of reaching out to only 2-3 people per week. You can call, email, send a Facebook message, etc. Ask them how they’re doing, let them know you’ve been thinking of them, and see if you can set up a time to speak or meet for coffee, whatever.
- Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t reach out to 2-3 people in the first few weeks. You haven’t developed the habit yet. Give yourself credit for the effort you do make – that is critical to building upon your success (and not what you think is your failure).
- Stick to your weekly goal, and don’t make excuses why you can’t. If you think you can, you are right; if you think you can’t, you are also right. So, be right about what you can and what you will do!
- At the end of the first month, see how many people you reached out to, and how many you reached. Whatever the number, it will be greater than zero.
- Keep doing it for a second month.
- Keep doing it for a third month.
- After several months (or sooner), you will realize that you have the time to network with a few each week, and you will have developed the habit of networking!
You will connect and re-connect with a lot of people over time, and you will have fun doing it! And, your network will stay active, it will grow, and you will reap benefits that you didn’t even realize come from networking, especially when you are not job searching.
So, remember, set a realistic and attainable weekly goal, stick with it, give yourself time to gain momentum, pat yourself on the back for what you do accomplish, and in a few months, you will have developed and retained the habit of networking! And, keep doing it – your network is only as good as your efforts in staying in touch with the people with whom you are connected.