Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Network: Connect, Maintain, and Grow Maximizing Your Network ROI

By Terica Scott, M.A.

In the light of the current economy and the massive nation-wide job layoffs, we all need to explore, expand, and extend our personal and professional networks to land new jobs offers, gain new skills, and develop new career paths.

How bad is it in the Atlanta job market? According the Georgia Department of Labor, Commissioner Michael Thurmond, the unemployment rate in Georgia has hit a record high at 8.6%. In Atlanta that equals a total of 40,100 jobs lost from December 2008 to January 2009 alone- one of the greatest job loss in one month in state history.

Recent local media coverage of local job fairs show long lines and crowds of unemployed women and men hoping to land at least one new contact that will turn into one possible new job opportunity.

Workforce solutions and talent management experts from Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH) in Atlanta report that less than 1% of people land new jobs through career fairs. Another to take this point further, only 12% of job seekers land new jobs through responding to online advertisements and other postings.

According to LHH coaches, the best way to land a new job is through networking, since this strategy has an over 65% success rate.

Networking leads to jobs. Period. However, before you take the networking plunge, you should understand that successful networking takes strategy, goals, and creativity. Simply put, you need a plan.

So, how do you start? Where do you go? What should you do to network?
As an avid advocate of sold professional networks, I would like to offer my perspectives on effective networking. There are no correct answers. But there are tried and true strategies that have worked for others and that will work for you. A common challenge for most younger women who are in the early years of their careers, is building a strong home base and network infrastructure that is diverse, wholesome, rich, and long-lasting.

Networking as defined by Merriam-Webster.com is the "the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business."

First, ask yourself:

With whom should I connect? Will they help me? What will I offer in return of the connections?
Once you can answer these questions for yourself, and then follow the steps below:

1. Organize and Communicate
Build a list of contacts (target organizations and people) and organize each contact by relationship or affiliation. Use a spreadsheet or table to capture contact information and log correspondence. Find the best method for storing, recording, and organizing business cards, email contact list, and address books. Update your personal business cards and prepare your "grab-bag" of resources you plan to share with your network (i.e. business cards, resume, portfolio, current affairs or market information). Now you are ready to reach out to everyone on your list via email, mail, or by phone. Remember to be personable, resourceful, and helpful. Hire a career coach to master your professional communication strategies or I recommend visiting Womenforhire.com, this Web site has many tips on networking and career development.

2. Commit to Consistency
Consistent action is the key to connecting with new people and maintaining existing connects. How is this possible with the demands of work, job search, personal life, and of course, play? Constant contact with your network takes commitment, discipline, and creativity. To complete this step, set a constant contact goal that you will commit to immediately. Your goal can be daily, monthly, yearly, depending on the level of relationship, resource, or other factor.

3. Maintain and Nurture Relationships
Once you devise a fruitful, consistent networking plan, then you will have to develop a way to sustain strategic and steadfast action in all networking efforts all as much as possible. Web sites like Linkedin.com and Plaxo.com offer many Web-based tools to help you maintain relationships and communicate with your network. Quick Tip (Inspired by my career coach, Kristin Dickson of LHH): Are you already on a social networking site? Turn your myspace.com, twitter.com, or/ and facebook.com social network into a professional network, too, ask your friends for referrals and job leads. Moreover, it is essential to foster new avenues to share new treasures of information in service to your connections.

4. Drive Resource Sharing
Drive. It is your network. You are empowered to carve out your own road map for success, however, along the way, be sure to lend a hand to your network as much as possible and as needed. Each handshake is essential an exchange, however, your resource sharing must go beyond the status quo to stand out to your network. Proactively explore, locate, swap resources, ideas, tools, and anything of value with your network to illustrate your appreciation and gratitude for the relationship. So go forth, drive the share resources within your network.

5. Set and Evaluate Goals
Effective plans need effective goals. This concept is common knowledge to must of us, however, be sure to develop measurable goals that will yield the greatest results (Return on Investment (ROI), along the way. Evaluate your goals from time to time to check your progress and make adjustments as needed.

With three-fourths of 2009 yet to come, take a moment to reflect on how you can work harder to stay on top of your networking activities. Commit to renewed network creation, communication and outreach efforts to achieve your desired ROI.

Your Network ROI

Organization + Communication + Comittment + Sharing = Desired Goal (or ROI)

Embark on your quest of authentic network relationship management.

Network. Meet. Connect. Maintain. Grow.
Terica Scott holds a Masters Degree in Professional Communication and is an expert in organizational communications. Visit her blog at joyoussoul.blogspot.com

1 comment:

  1. Education is a must for everyone, only then a person will communicate and face problems easily in all aspects. Plenty of job openings are there but it is meant only for the right candidate, its the right time to develop new skills to become one of the right person what the company/organization expects.