Some people love networking; others would rather get a root canal while waiting in line at the DMV. No matter where you sit on that spectrum, you probably don’t have a lot of time to make the connections that sustain your career. Fortunately, some of the best techniques for building professional relationships take hardly any time at all, and they’re all based on the same idea: if you want to have friends, or at least people willing to lend you a hand if you need one, you have to be a friend.
(Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar/Flickr)
To make sure there’s someone there to help you the next time you need a job or an introduction, make just a little time to do the following:
1. File it for later — but make sure later comes soon.
If you’re lucky enough to have sustained career growth during the recession, chances are that you’ve made plenty of connections, just by being employed — and at least some of those people are going to want some of your work mojo. In practical terms, this translates to a lot of requests: for coffee dates, for introductions to other connections, for your help passing along a resume to HR.
Of course, you want to help everyone you can, but you also don’t want to ruin your own productivity by snapping yourself out of the zone every time your email dings or your LinkedIn mailbox fills up. Instead, create a file for requests like these, and make a pledge to get back to people in a timely fashion, just as you would emails from current colleagues. Then, keep your commitment to responding, even if you have to plead a packed schedule or deliver bad news about a recently filled vacancy.
2. Endorse a LinkedIn connection.
Writing recommendations takes time and thought, but endorsing a connection on LinkedIn is a matter of a few seconds and clicks. Just make sure you’re endorsing folks for skills they’d actually want to show a hiring manager. Because users can accept or reject endorsements, you can often get a good idea of which skills your connections value just by looking at their profiles.
3. Pass on job openings.
“Whether you do it for the money or the intrinsic value, take time to share openings in your company with your contacts,” writes Hannah Morgan at U.S. News On Careers. “Remember: You don’t always have to know the person you are referring well. It is all right to say you don’t know his or her work firsthand and that you are just facilitating an introduction.”
4. Plan a phone date.
If you’re not a phone person — and increasingly, many of us are not — the idea of making an appointment to share your accumulated wisdom with a colleague might make you shudder. Do it anyway. Pick a time that’s convenient for you, and don’t be afraid to keep it short. (But be polite. It’s fine to say you have another meeting coming up at a certain time, but you need to make an effort not to sound like taking the call under duress.)
5. Remember that the best networking happens organically.
Networking, in essence, is just formalizing socializing and relationship building. Done well, it should almost be invisible. If you’re a good person with decent manners, you’re already halfway home. The rest is just remembering to treat people the way you’d want to be treated — especially if you’re ever the person who needs a job.
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