Networking: Who do you know who…..?
Do you know who is in your network? Do you work your network effectively and efficiently? Let’s start with the facts. Everyone knows at least 10 people. Think of the old AT&T TV commercial where they talk about one person knows 10 people and those 10 people know 10 people and soon you have a screen full of hundreds to thousands of faces. How many people do you have in your network that you can connect with today? Have you lost touch with some, while others have diminished in their significance to your overall goals?

Executives are usually good networkers as they apply many of the principles of networking to their own teams and internal organization departments. However, many are reluctant and don’t network well. When it comes to stepping out of their comfort zone, some executives avoid working on strengthening their existing network or building new contacts. I’ve simplified the essence of networking to encourage executives to focus on their network and start using it today.

Who are the people currently in your network? Are they former peers and bosses, or industry colleagues? Have you reached out past the obvious – cast a wider net to connect to other people who could add value to your network? Where can you find these people? To name a few:

Business groups & associations
Business development & certification programs
Charity or civic organizations
Advanced college classes

Don’t overlook possibilities like neighbors, hairdresser, wine club, church, gym, special interest groups like hiking or biking, travel club, etc.

What can your network do for you? Or if we take the famous Kennedy perspective and ask “What can you do for your network?” It works both ways. Your contributions to your network of colleagues and friends can be very beneficial to all involved. Someone in your network may need the name of a resource, or may be looking for a person to fill a position in their organization, or just looking for a person with knowledge about a company or product. You might be able to provide that resource or information. And, on the flip side, you could be looking for the same things from people in your network, as well as getting an inside view of potential job opportunities that come up, a new product launch, or a new division opening up.

Where is the best place to network? The list is endless, keeping in mind that you need to be discrete at all times if you are currently employed. Association meetings, or business development programs are great places to network, asking questions that generate answers about a company’s challenges and then positioning yourself up as a solution to that pain/problem. Charity functions often have high-powered industry leaders in attendance and casual conversation could end up in potential job leads. Inviting former bosses or co-workers to coffee or lunch is also a great way to connect and discuss potential opportunities. Connecting through social networking is also viable, yet needs to be highly filtered if you are still employed. Your company monitors social media so you don’t want to give yourself away looking for a job.

When & Why…..
The time is now, even if you are not considering a move or change until later in the year or even next year. Building your network of contacts before you need them is a smart approach. In the early stages of creating or adding to your network, you become a resource, positioning yourself as a ‘go-to’ person for others and drive up your value. Then, when you need your network, you have a rich group to tap into.

With the economy warming up in 2012, you want to be ready for opportunities that may come your way. Working on your network is one thing you can do today to prepare yourself for tomorrow.