Is there STRENGTH in your network?


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Over the past month I’ve been writing about how to build and maintain your professional network. With constantly meeting new people and growing your professional network is crucial to uncovering job leads and building a successful and lasting career. But today I’d like to talk to you about another really important piece of networking that is, in most cases, often neglected: Network Maintenance. With anything you build you have to maintain it. The same goes with maintaining your connections once you have them. You can’t build up a new network every time you look for a job or have a career need; think of your longer-term connections as a bench of teammates that, as long as you stay connected, will be your supporters for years to come.

If your network is anything like mine it’s made up of old classmates, current and previous coworkers, and close friends. As we get older and move further in our careers we can lose touch with a lot of those connections. A question you might ask yourself is “How do I reach out to that someone I haven’t spoken with in a long time?” Well I’ll admit that it might feel awkward to send an email, friend request, or a request for to connect on LinkedIn to a former colleague, classmate or client, straight out of the blue. I think you should do it anyway. Here are two reasons why: First, social media is still a new enough communication channel that people aren’t shocked to be contacted by an old friend who has come across their profile. Second, it’s so important to your job search and career prospects to maintain a strong network that is worth that potential awkwardness. With that being said, you can lessen the potential weirdness of the situation by making that email or request a “Let’s get back in touch” message.

When you write that message there are a few things you should keep in mind. When I write that email I’ll explain how I “discovered” or even “rediscovered” them. I make sure I have something relevant to talk about. I usually do this by either checking out a few of their social network pages or I’ll even give them a quick Google search to find some recent information (this will show them that you have a genuine interest in them and that you can me a mutually beneficial network connection). And finally I’ll close the message by telling them a bit about what I’m doing and then I’ll suggest a follow-up conversation so that I can keep in touch with them. The follow-up conversation is where you can talk about your job search and offer up yourself to help you contact with any needs they might have. Remember, this first message is to be a friendly networking outreach, it is not the time to ask for a job. Reaching out to someone you haven’t spoken with in years and asking them for work can potentially hurt your chances at a solid connection.

Well lets say that you have already reached out and you’ve reconnected and things went really well. But now what? The real question is how do you keep in touch with someone when you don’t have an immediate need or any thing to share with them? The best advice I can give is to give them something. And I don’t mean anything physical. I’m speaking more on the lines of saying “Happy Birthday” and or, congrats on the new job or promotion. You can even comment on a discussion post they may have started or commented on, or even status updates on any of their social network sites. LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman calls this doing “small goods,” and it’s one of the best uses of the site.

LinkedIn provides some great ways to spark this type of outreach. You can use the LinkedIn news feed on LinkedIn.com. There, you can see a stream of what your LinkedIn connections are sharing in their updates and find reasons to reach out. If you like an article from someones posts, they’ll get a notification which will then keep you on that person’s radar screen. If and when something pops up you can use can use their status updates as a reason to reach out with a message. Remember, try to offer something of value to your contact. This is also important for you. Make sure you are posting discussions, status updates, and sharing articles to give your connections a chance to keep in touch with you as well. If you get a response be sure to reply to anyone and everyone who made the effort to reach out. Showing your gratitude strengthens and maintains your relationships.

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Seriously, You only get one “First impression”


First Impressionsimg credit: pinsofwar

If you’ve heard the expression, “Your first impression, is your last impression” then you may know what I’m talking about. For a few weeks now I’ve written about using social media sites to help you develop and grow a professional network and create a personal brand with the hopes of finding a great job or reaching a new customer base. This expression fits into what I’ve been talking about. I may have spoken briefly about this before but I’d like to touch on it a bit more especially as it relates to Linkedin.

You’re building your network and so far things are going great then you notice that a lot of your “Request to Connect” are not being answered and now you may start feeling that your network has plateaued. That might be true but it could be you’re not giving that connection the best first impression. If you’re saying to yourself that “I’m not meeting this person, so a ‘virtual’ request to connect doesn’t count. If you thought this you are wrong. That button is your chance at a first impression. Linkedin gives you a short (300 character count) chance at making that first impression count. Because LinkedIn created this incredibly useful way for us to expand our network, it doesn’t mean we should take all the steps out of the process. Not customizing your request-to-connect text, can indicate that you don’t appreciate what it takes to build trust and respect. Nothing says, “I couldn’t spare 10 seconds out of my day to show you why I want to connect,” more than failing to customize the request-to-connect text. Thus, when possible connections see this default text:

“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”

They may assume it’s SPAM – impersonal and not worth their time. You can avoid this assumption by taking a moment and doing a little research on the person you’re wishing to connect to first. If you already have that’s great, but taking a moment to read an article interview they did, or even an article they wrote and then mentioning it when you are requesting that connection tells them how you know them. I can actually confirm that this works. Earlier this year I reached out to Eran Dinur, VFX Director with Brianstorm Digital. I heard about Mr. Dinur from listening to a podcast that fxphd produced. They were interviewing him on his work with Boardwalk Empire and on The Men who Built America. Being a huge fan of Boardwalk Empire, I did my homework on Mr. Dinur and then reached out to him. With a day or two I got a positive response back and we keep in touch on a semi monthly basis.

When it comes to requesting you have to be careful in your reasoning to why. If you are requesting a connection with someone who you think could help you land a job, please make sure you don’t come off ‘self centered’ and off topic. This is an example of what I mean:

I got laid-off 9 months ago and time is running out on unemployment. Please connect so I can send you my resume. I need you to tell me what to do to make it stand out.

That is an example of a request, I pulled off the web, that someone sent to an individual that could have helped them if they wouldn’t have been so self-centered and off-target. I could never do that to a potential connection. Writing them and making them feel that it’s their job to fix your employment troubles is low. Doing this has seriously ruined your “First Impression.” Networking is best done when both sides enter into it professionally, politely, and without demanding rewards from the relationship before it’s even established. Build that ‘first impression’ first by letting your connections know how you know them, and a really good reason why you want to connect with them. Then build upon that new relationship by sparking conversations on topics the speak about or ones you both have interest in then you can ask that person if they would mind taking a quick moment to review your profile or resume and respond with a few tips on how to improve it. When you ask for something, make sure you always give the person a way to say no, especially if what you’re asking for only benefits you.