When the going gets tough, the tough get… in touch with their networks.
“You mean, Michele, that with the economy in free fall, the best thing I can do is network?” Incredulity is to truth as ham is to… what? [easy now, that’s just a SAT analogy flashback]
OK, 70% of jobs are filled by personal referral. So it only makes sense that when unemployment is rising, and the economy is falling, your circle of friends and acquaintances becomes your most important insurance policy. ‘Tis true, the people who know and like to work with you can speak most eloquently on your behalf. It also never hurts to have such a gold plated circle of contacts that your boss can’t possibly fire you.
Over at BettyConfidential.com, I hammer on the importance of networking. Kinda thought I was the Queen of Networking. Until I met Liz Lynch. She’s the true Queen of Networking, poppets, and I bow deeply to her.
Liz has a new book you’re going to want to read — Smart Networking: Attract A Following In Person And Online — and despite my pretensions toward her throne, I got to enter the presence of the Queen and ask a few questions.
How do you define networking, Liz? “So many people see networking as going to events and meeting new people, but my definition is much broader. I define a ‘network’ as a support system of people you can turn to for help, advice, ideas, and information. ‘Networking,’ then, is simply the process of building and maintaining that support system, and being able to tap into it when you need help.”
I have quite a few clients who’ve found themselves unexpectedly out of a job. Happening all over the world, in many different sectors. When you have to find a job fast, I asked Liz, do you just scramble to find a job, any job, and forget about the network? “Actually, quite the opposite,” Liz said. “Building a network does take time, but the good news is that everyone has a network already. People we’ve worked with, gone to school with, live near, play tennis with, etc. When you really need to get something done, it’s these people, your most raving fans, that you should turn to first. While they may not be in a position to hire you themselves, you can get valuable advice on your job search and some may even be able to introduce you to others in their network who work at companies you’re interested in. If nothing else, having moral support in these tough times can help you maintain confidence.”
I told Liz that I love to work with professional women who are re-entering the workforce. Many of them whine, I mean, express deep concern, that their network is stale and out-of-date. Liz suggested, “What’s really great about networking now is all of the online options that are available that you can do on your own time and without having to leave the house. An at-home mom can start to build her online network on LinkedIn and Facebook, and connect with folks she already knows. That way she gets on the radar screens of her old colleagues and can reach out to them much more easily once she’s ready to start exploring her options. She can also start a business blog where once a week she can comment on news and trends in her industry. This is important because once she gets into job mode again, hiring managers are going to Google her. When her blog comes up and they read her insights and wisdom, it might just tip the scales in her favor.”
Some small business owners see people in the same line of work as competition. Is there any benefit from growing a network with your competitors, Liz? Quoth the Queen, “My general philosophy with life is that there is more than enough to go around. Do you want to turn business away just so your competitor can prosper? No. You don’t need to sacrifice yourself or give away your trade secrets, but being open to cooperation leads to win-win-win opportunities, where 1+1 can equal 5.
“For example, I have great relationships with other networking experts, and I feature some of them in the book. Why would I do this? Because it helps everybody. Readers get the benefit of hearing other experiences. The experts get the benefit of exposure in an international book, and hopefully because they’re in it, they’ll be willing to recommend it to their friends, colleagues and customers.”
See why Liz Lynch is the Queen of Networking?
From her vantage point upon her throne, I wanted to know what her own network has done for her. Liz told me, “It’s amazing when I think of how much my network has come through for me, and writing the book helped me remember so many of those moments. When I first left corporate America in 2000 to start my own consulting business, my network gave me nearly all of my business those first two years. Some hired me directly, some referred me to people they knew, and some just listened and gave me input on how to position myself. More recently, I got my book deal with McGraw-Hill without an agent as a first-time author with one email to someone in my network.
“For those who might be thinking that I have magical people in my Rolodex, I don’t. They’re all very special to me, but they’re not household names. The reason they’re willing to help me is because I’ve built the relationship to last and I’ve mastered the art of the ask, two very important topics I cover in Smart Networking.”
The trick to successful investing is to buy low and sell high. When others are out of the market, there are often great openings for the taking. The same is true with networking. When so many people hunker down in fear, you can invest in your network. You can organize a volunteer activity for a group, or arrange a happy hour, or a lunch. You can step up your email contacts, or jump on Twitter or Facebook,or LinkedIn, where staying on your network’s radar screen is easy.
Invest in your network now, and someday, just maybe, you’ll sit high upon your own throne as the King or Queen Of Connections.