Networking is Key to Propel You Toward Career Success

Kathryn Marion

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Did you go through the goal setting exercise outlined in the August ‘05 Dose of Reality™? [see the end of this article for subscription information and back issues] If you did, fabulous! With your goals written down, you’re lightyears ahead of your peers. Get a load of this: A study was conducted a few years ago of graduates from a business school. Only three percent of grads had clearly articulated and written goals. . . but those grads earned ten times more than the 83% who had no goals at all. Even those grads who had some sense of their goals, but had not written them down, earned three times as much as those who hadn’t given goals a second thought. How’s that for motivation to get this exercise done?

Now that your goals are written down, do you think you can accomplish them all by yourself? Stop right there if you think you can. You may have impressive work experience and education, but ‘what you know’ has less to do with your future career success than ‘who you know. ’ Start right now on creating an impressive network of contacts in your chosen field of work and you’ll find yourself propelled toward your goals faster than you imagined possible.

Whether you’re still in school, or looking for your first job, or already in a job, a network of contacts in your chosen field is invaluable. But don’t run out trying to meet as may people as you can…you need to get yourself prepared first. Get a three-ring binder with forms you’ve created for tracking all the important information you’ll keep about each person you meet. It will be invaluable to you for decades to come. Next, practice name/face memorization tricks if you’re not proficient in this very important networking skill. And if you’re not already up-to-date on information in your field(s) of interest, go to the library or get online and read all the latest magazines and journals so you will have at least a basic understanding of what’s happening in your field. That way you won’t be caught off-guard if asked for an opinion on a hot topic.

Where to Start?

Begin with your school’s alumni association, job fairs, and on-campus recruiting events. If you’re already working full-time, start right there at your office—in your department as well as others. Join a professional association and become an active participant. Don’t just read their newsletter or sit quietly in the back of their meetings—that won’t get you anywhere.

More places to find people include the gym, community groups, volunteer organizations, and your own neighborhood. Personal and professional contacts can be made just about anywhere. Regard every situation and every person you meet as being valuable—the most valuable contacts are often made in the most surprising places. CareerBuilder even has an online service to help get you in touch with people in your field, and Monster has good articles on networking to help you get started. [see the link at the end of this article for the fastest way to these great sites]

Start your networking notebook by entering friends, teachers, previous employers or internship sponsors, counselors, alumni, parents’ friends, your family doctor, your mechanic—everyone you know! For each person, write down their full name, company, title, job description (to the best of your ability—you don’t need to be terribly detailed), addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses, hobbies and special interests—basically, everything you know about them.

How to Meet People

At your professional association, join a committee, help with a fundraiser, or work at the hospitality desk at meetings—it’s a great way to meet lots of people while you gain experience. As the ‘new kid on the block’ you have an advantage at these events. Strike up conversations by asking established members questions about the organization, their events and member services, and volunteer opportunities. You don’t have to be a master of small talk, just curious. You don’t have to be good at small talk, just at asking questions. Ask people about what their company does, what their role is, why they came to this particular meeting (what about the topic interested them most?).

Offer information when you can, but avoid sounding like a know-it-all. You want your name to come to people’s minds when they need information or a person to fill a job with your skills. Let them know what you’re capable of—without becoming a blatant commercial for yourself.

Did you read an article on the meeting topic lately or write a paper about it? Have you done some research that your conversation partner might be interested in? Do you know how to solve the computer problem they complained of? Offer your opinions, insights, information, even advice (if you feel qualified to do so). It could lead to something bigger.

Keeping In Touch

Each time you contact any of the people in your notebook in any way (including a ‘chance’ meeting at a restaurant), write down the date, place, and topics you discussed. Also make note of any promises you made to them or items you need to follow up. Every two or three months, list those people you have not contacted lately. Find different ways of reconnecting with them, like offering information that might help them or invite them to an association meeting.

When you read an article you feel might interest one of your contacts, let them know—send a brief note with a copy of the article. Businesspeople can be so busy that they miss items that might be a help to them—they’ll be grateful for your considerate ‘gift’ and remember you for it. If you hear of a lecture, event, or special television program which might interest a contact, send a quick note by email or snail mail letting them know it’s coming. Be sure to respect the busy schedules of your contacts—keep calls to less than five minutes, if possible.

Rather than ask for something, offer information as often as possible. “What goes around, comes around. ” You’ll be on the receiving end at some point, but right now, give, give, give.

To see the decision making and goal setting article mentioned here, search for Expert Author name Kathryn Marion.

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Kathryn Marion is President of Education for Reality™.in Erie, Colorado. Her book Success in the ‘Real World:’ The Graduate's Complete Guide to Making the Most of Your Career (and Your Life!) was released in April ‘05 in e-book format for its tenth anniversary-it was distributed through schools, colleges, and universities to nearly two million new graduates. Jam-packed with savvy insights and helpful advicem it covers everything from careers to money management to handling personal and even legal matters. Visit and sign up for the free monthly newsletter, Dose of RealityTM-it will give you a ‘dose’ of advice on your career, your money, and your life each month as well as point you to additional online resources which will help you in these areas-so you don't have to surf the Net (we do it for you!).


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