12.11.2013 | Sarah Elson
When I graduated from college last spring my career path looked more like a complicated maze with no clear direction. I have a background in communications and journalism, but at the time I wasn’t sure how to narrow down my interests to a specific career or how to go about searching for jobs.
My parents encouraged me to reach out to a family friend who owns a marketing and communications agency for guidance. He provided me with invaluable career advice, the best of which was to continue reaching out to people in the communications industry.
Once I realized the importance of building professional relationships I decided to learn more about networking. I came across a book called “Never Eat Alone,” by Keith Ferrazzi, that helped me realize that at its core networking is really just creating meaningful relationships with people. I learned a great deal about making connections from this book, but here are five of the most useful tips I picked up:
Dream with a deadline: If you set specific goals for yourself it’s much easier for others to help you get where you want to go. Ferrazzi refers to goal-setting as “dreaming with a deadline” and lays out a three-step plan for goal setting: find your passion, flesh it out with smaller goals you can achieve, and identify ways to establish connections with people already in that field. Once I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in public relations I reached out to the handful of people I knew who work in PR to learn firsthand about different segments of the industry: How is working at an agency different from working in-house? How does a large agency differ from a boutique? Each person I met with offered valuable insight and new people with whom to connect. The bigger my public relations network grew the closer I came to accomplishing my overall goal of breaking into the public relations industry.
Follow up or fail: The key to establishing a new professional relationship is following up. Ferrazzi says the follow-up is the hammer and nails of your networking toolkit. To ensure you don’t get lost in someone’s “mental attic,” Ferrazzi recommends sending a quick email within 12 to 24 hours of meeting them. Another way to quickly establish a connection is to immediately add new contacts on LinkedIn.
Stay in touch: The most important part of building and maintaining a professional network is staying in touch. Sending quick, casual greetings on a regular basis will keep the connection alive so the next time you see the person you won’t be met with a blank stare. In order to maintain secondary relationships, Ferrazzi recommends getting in touch three to four times a year. I have found that an easy way to do this is sending a birthday note or congratulating someone when they are promoted or start a new job.
Pay it forward: Networking is a two-way street. While you should always be looking for people to mentor and guide you, it is just as important to find others who you can help. If you hear of a job lead that would be perfect for one of your contacts, pass it on. If you meet someone who you think would be a beneficial contact for your colleague, introduce them.
Throw out work/life balance: In general, it’s important to find a happy medium between the hours you put into your job and the time you spend with family and friends. But when it comes to networking, there’s no need to separate your personal and professional life to keep them in balance. Since Ferrazzi’s career is relationship-driven, he says he doesn’t consider it a career but rather a way of life. Although most people don’t feel that way, it is common for your most valuable professional contacts to also be close friends or family. Communique is a shining example of this – our firm’s founders are sisters.
The essence of Ferrazzi’s message is simple – create as many meaningful relationships with as many people as possible. But building relationships is not always an easy task. Are there any networking tips you have found to be helpful?