I know what you’re thinking: “Are we talking voice, data, wired or wireless networks? I’ve seen the Verizon and AT&T commercials, so I know the answer.” Well that might be true, but there is a network that is more important than those, and if it isn’t dependable, you’ll have some serious problems. That network is your professional network.
Think speed doesn’t count? If you’re someone who got caught in a massive layoff due to the Great Recession, you learned quickly that your professional network speed is the only one that counts. The faster you can leverage your network to either find a job or fill a critical position, the faster you can get back to getting a regular paycheck, or finding the time to take a lunch break for once.
Although the statistical information varies depending on the source, it is fair to say that more than 60 percent of jobs are filled through professional networking. Does it make sense now why your company has an employee referral program? Also, how many times have you heard the story where a friend was introduced to someone who didn’t even know that they had a need until the right person was standing in front of them?
Obviously, career growth is the main reason to make sure you always have a strong professional network but it may be just as important to leverage its referral power. There comes a time on a weekly basis where I need to bounce an idea off someone or require new services for my business or home life, and who better to make that recommendation than the people you know and trust. Those of you that have business development responsibilities already know the power of networking because when those referrals come back your way, there is nothing better than a pre-qualified warm lead that is already comfortable with you.
I spend a significant amount of time building my network, because it is part of my job. But for those of you who are sitting there agreeing with what I am saying but don’t feel you have the time, I have two easy solutions for you. The first one is to make sure that you are on LinkedIn and that your profile has some content. They have made it very easy. You can simply import your resume after opening your account and then upload a picture. No need to run to Glamour Shots. Just crop that picture from the last wedding you attended or from your summer vacation and you’re off and running. My second suggestion is to join a networking group that meets at a frequency that works for your lifestyle. My group meets Friday mornings at 7:30, which wouldn’t be my first choice, but I know that I am almost always available at that time and I can still get to the office before the day starts. By consistently spending time with like-minded professionals I have come to know and trust, the value generated by that group has helped me both grow my business and myself professionally. Not sure where to start? Try a website like MeetUp to find interesting groups in your local area.
Last, I find that people that have been working in one company for over three or four years tend to be the ones that let their professional network get stale. Don’t wait until you need your network to come through for you in a tough spot, spend the time now to keep it strong and grow it. It won’t be wasted time, and you never know what new opportunities can come from meeting new people.