Career Coach: Your Success Likely Depends on People You Don’t Know — Yet
I am writing this article with an assumption that you want to grow in your career. It is impossible for you to accomplish this without other people. These people could be collaborators, teammates, customers, suppliers, bosses, advisors, mentors, family, friends and most likely people you do not yet know. Yes, you read that correctly. Much of your growth should also be coming from people you do not know today. By the way, you are also the person that others do not yet know who may have a positive impact on their careers. How will you get to know these people who will positively impact your career and whose careers you may have a positive impact on, too? Become an accomplished networker.
Right about now some of you are thinking networking will not work for you because you are shy, an introvert. As a coach, I always tell my clients that it is critical that they get uncomfortable each and every day. If you are not willing to venture outside of your comfort zone, how will you continue to grow? The more you venture outside of your comfort zone, the larger your comfort zone becomes and the more you will have opened up your personal and business life to new opportunities. So please don’t dismiss networking, as it is an incredibly powerful tool for you, personally and professionally.
OK, let’s get back to networking and the ways you can put it to work for you.
Begin with where you will be most comfortable — your colleagues, friends, family and neighbors. You never know who someone else may know and that person you do not know could be just the person you should be talking with right now. Let the people in your own personal network know about your goals, interests and aspirations. Ask them if they know anyone in their networks who it would be beneficial for you to meet who could serve as a mentor, advisor or simply a great contact with like interests. If you hear the word “no” several times, don’t be discouraged. It’s all about timing. When I ran a national sales team, I always told them that hearing “No” is a great thing, as that is one step closer to a “Yes” coming your way.
Conferences and Networking Events
Attend as many industry conferences and networking events as possible. A conference in your industry is a fantastic way to expand your network in your field of work. Remember that you are the chief marketing officer of your life so you must advocate for yourself and build your own personal brand. Again, this requires pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. The more people who can meet you and become familiar with your talents, skills and abilities, the more you will increase your personal brand awareness and this will serve you well in your career. If you are attending an industry conference with a colleague, make sure you do not use each other as a security blanket. You can attend plenary sessions together but split up and go to separate break-out sessions where you can meet new people. Always turn to the people next to you and introduce yourself. Always be equipped with plenty of business cards and always ask others for their card in return. I make it a point to write a brief email to each person I met, letting them know how much I enjoyed meeting them. I add their contact information to my contacts and if your firm has one, add them to your company’s Customer Relationship Management program. Be sure to connect with them on LinkedIn.
Speaking of LinkedIn
LinkedIn is an incredibly powerful tool and you should be leveraging it in every way possible. Remember, this is a social media platform that is focused on business relationships, something you continually want to grow throughout your career. There are currently 467 million people using LinkedIn, so the people you need to know are definitely out there. Utilize LinkedIn as your networking tool.
First things first: Create your customized profile. Your profile should be highly professional and this should be taken very seriously, as this is your internet marketing tool for building your personal brand. Your LinkedIn profile should expand on your resume. Be sure to set up a custom LinkedIn Profile URL with your name. Include a professional picture as well.
Spend a little time on LinkedIn every day. Look through your current contacts and see if any of their contacts would be beneficial to you. Request an introduction to those people and expand your network. If they accept the connection, send them a LinkedIn message thanking them for connecting with you.
Join LinkedIn groups in your field. This is very important. One you are accepted into a group you have open access to contacting other group members with common interests and this can be huge for you. Leverage your alma mater by joining their groups and following them on LinkedIn.
Ask your contacts who know you if they would be willing endorse you for skills you have listed in your profile. Also ask those who have worked closely with you if they would write a recommendation for you. This will also appear in your profile. Do your best to master this platform by reading one of the numerous books on the best ways to utilize LinkedIn.
Remember, you are the one responsible for marketing yourself and building your personal brand. Networking is a skill you should be embracing as much as possible. Challenge yourself, get outside of your comfort one and rapidly expand your personal network. You won’t regret it.