A pillar of successful career management is networking. The people you know and help are the very same people that can help you in your time of need. Yet, too many of us let this critical need of networking slide. This makes sense, of course. We’re busy. We know hundreds of people. We can’t take time to know everything there is to know about each of them.
Yet, knowing how to manage your network is a Cubical Warrior skill.
The key to managing your network is to have a plan. That sounds elementary, of course, and it is pretty basic. Yet, when I tell people that I regularly e-mail my network with my updates I get deer-in-headlights looks and recognition that contacting your network regularly is a good idea. When I tell people that there are tools out there to help with their networking (for example, Jibber Jobber, a great site), they are amazed that such tools exist.
The Cube Rules membership story here, then, is that having a plan to manage your network will give you a heads up on the rest of the competition out there in the marketplace. You will stay in people’s minds when positions open up, will help you hear about opportunities before others do, and will help support the people you know by helping them.
But, when you have many, perhaps hundreds, of people you know, you need a plan. Here are the elements you can use for your networking contact plan:
1. Contact your network regularly. This can be as often as you like, but regular contact is necessary. I use my (almost) monthly e-mail to let people know what I am doing. This covers only 4-5 paragraphs and is a paragraph about work, home, hobby, and something Kate and I did together since the last time I wrote. I always include a picture of us as an attachment to the e-mail. Simple and direct, yet a powerful reminder of what you do and what you are working on at the time.
2. Have an on-line social network. I personally use this site, Twitter, and LinkedIn for my updates. This broadens my network and can add to it as more people see what I am doing on-line. I’m going to be adding a Facebook page as well – and that’s it. Anything more and the network becomes diluted.
3. Have a tool to manage your career. Honestly, the best one I have seen is Jibber Jobber (Jason should pay me money for the recommendation!). Most of his site is free, but he has additional features available for dollars. If you sign up, you get some amount of time with the premium features as well, so you can check it out. But 80-85% of the features on the site are free. The key to Jason’s site is that you can have all of your contacts, your targeted companies, tracking of your resume submissions, and social information on the site – and it is kept private, only for your eyes. A great way to manage the entirety of your career. Regardless if you use this type of tool or something as simple as Outlook, you need to have a tool that helps you work with your network regularly.
You want to grow your network. You NEED to grow your network. The bigger the network gets, the more you will need to manage your network. Your network will help your career. Make sure you treat it as the precious jewel in your career management portfolio.