I read an article today on MSNBC by Paul Wiseman entitled, "The Economic Recovery Turns 2 --- Feel Better?" and thought "how does one make it in such a difficult economy?" Most people just want a fitting job for their skills, experience, and education. Finding such a job is very hard in this present economy.
So, how does one make it in this economy? I believe that the key to prospering in this economy is - networking regularly and becoming very good at it.
How does one get started networking? We hear about it all of the time and feel like we have a generally good idea of what it entails, however there are multiple steps to networking. Networking begins with:
1. Having something of value to share with others
2. Being confident about the purpose of your networking
3. Presenting the most advantageous image for your cause
4. Displaying good communication skills and social awareness
5. Having a good idea about your target audience and how to reach them
Have something of value to share with others. This step is pretty self explanatory. Who wants to listen to someone who does not have anything of value to offer? How do you get something of value to offer if you believe you don't have anything? Well, are you able-minded? Can you learn how to do something? Are you able-bodied? Can you offer the value of your physical labor places? Yes! You just have to find the places that need your skills. Do you have access to in-demand products or services that you can broker to people/businesses who have a need? Do you have specialized knowledge or experience in an industry or service? Connect with the people who can put you in front of people/businesses who can benefit from your value. If you are unsure of your ability to offer value to someone or want to offer value to individuals in a different capacity then you should consider going to school for it. Just do some research on the industry you plan on working in and get a good idea about the economic demand for it.
Be confident about the purpose of your networking. You have to network with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose. People need to sense that you are confident about what you are offering and that you can confidently answer their burning question, "What's in it for me?" The best way to become confident about what you are offering is to know it inside and out. Know the selling points and the explanations behind them very well. You may be networking your own value to help on a project or consult someone. Make sure you can describe how your value fits nicely into their need to progress their cause.
Present the most advantageous image for your cause. I'm sure you've been told that you have to "look the part." This is because it's no secret that first impressions are critical and you can really capture someone with your charm within the opening seconds of your meeting. If you do, they will be much more receptive to your message because they will determine that they like you. If they like you, then they will hear you out. If you have a good value proposition and are confident in your delivery, you have a better chance to get to that next step than if you lack that preparation. Make sure to do research on how to look the part and act the part you are trying to get, and own it! A high degree of professionalism goes a long way, couple it with passion and you may become irresistible!
Display good communication skills and social awareness. Good communication skills can take you a very long way. The way you communicate alone can convey a lot about your background and level of intelligence. These two things are obviously important to an employer, client or business associate. In addition to signaling your background and level of intelligence, how well you communicate is often one of the first tests of your suitability for the role you are interested in. You have to fit in with the team and your communication is part of that equation. If at all possible observe people already in the role you want and take notes on their communication. Know the language of the industry and way of the industry and display that in your interactions with whom you are trying to link up with.
Have a good idea about your target audience and how to reach them. First you have to determine who your target audience is. This comes with having steps 1 and 2 of this article completed. If you know your value and have confidence in the purpose of your networking then you will know your target audience. Often times the greatest challenge is figuring out how to reach the contacts you need. A good idea is to start by telling your friends and family about what you are networking for and who you are looking to connect with (without making them feel as if they are giving sales referrals, but rather facilitating a mutually beneficial business relationship for you). Other options are LinkedIn's 'events' section (LinkedIn.com is a must for a serious professional networker), finding events on meetup.com, and asking people in groups that you belong to, if they know of any networking events. This is the essence of networking, connecting with people for the progression of some cause and connecting other people to people you know. So, this step will never stop for true networkers and you may find it very fulfilling. Personally, I love this part of networking.
Networking just begins with the 5 steps mentioned in this article. There are other keys to networking such as following up with prospects, keeping any promises you make, truly getting to know what others have to offer and what they are looking for before going full-on with your 'pitch' (an important courtesy many fail to respect), and of course looking to refer other people and give, not just get connections. Being a good networker begins as a science but like many skills in life, it becomes an art to an avid networker. The more natural your networking interactions are, the better and the only way to make your networking more natural is to network consistently!