By Brent M. Jones
Genealogy is the second most popular hobby in the U.S. after gardening, according to ABC News, and the second most visited category of websites, after pornography. The desire to search for your ancestors and build a family tree is something that a lot of people take seriously. The desire to connect the links in your own network goes even beyond the grave.
We see our living connections as part of various networks. Personal and professional groups of people that are important to us through our association with them or through the influence we feel from them.
Often, we don’t even think about our professional network until it becomes time to look for a job. People no longer work for one company for their whole career, retiring after 50 years with a pension and a gold watch. In today's world the US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics says that an individual may change jobs 12 times in their career.
Since 85% of jobs are found through networking, sooner or later we will begin the process of developing a professional network. Forward thinking employees will keep track of their coworkers, supervisors, senior managers and people who have made an impression on them all through their careers. We can find these names and contacts in our Rolodex, address books, and day planners. Once we have a list we should actively decide who we want to invest in to build a long term relationship. All relationships must be developed and maintained, especially professional relationships.
How do we Organize our Network? We can organize our network by dividing our contact names into groups. The most influential group, often our Professional Network, is for those people we have decided to make our top 10. These are people we contact consistently a few times a year in person, by email, or other ways. When we invest in them, we ensure our contacts are not forgotten. Co-Workers, supervisors, customers, suppliers and competitors are key names for your Professional Network.
As we go through the day and some interesting fact or observation comes to our attention that makes us think of one of these contacts we can send and email or give them a call. By following up and reaching out, your professional contact is reminded of your personality and skills. Ask about them and really commit to your investment in the professional relationship. Be a contact worth having for those you value.
Acquaintances and Friends are in the second group. Some from this group may even be on the Christmas Card list. Nevertheless, they are important contacts and are maintained at a different level. Pick a top 10 or 20 and maintain a contact frequency. This list could include family, friends, neighbors, church friends, and coworkers, past and present.
Past work experience. Unless you’re at entry level your work value is related to your past-experience. If you’re busy wishing you could start your career over in a different direction, you’re likely in for some disappointments. The work-related network contacts will see you best in relation to what you have done.
Pick people who inspire you and that you admire. Even in a professional network where we have chosen the people we want to stay in touch with over the years, it is possible to have unhealthy relationships that hurt us. Our lives are happier, healthier and we even live longer when we have strong close ad positive relationships in our lives. Pick people who inspire you and that you admire. People you have learned from and if you’re just reaching out to those that you knew and are not part of the network be positive yourself and don’t invite negativity. Everyone you contact deserves a thank you and some feedback. Some first-time contacts will be ones your want to add to your permanent professional network.
Face-to-face old-fashioned networking is better! Voice to Voice! LinkedIn can help. That said networking is critical in finding a new job and even a new boss.
If you genuinely like people and the feeling comes naturally to you then you already know how to network, and you are most likely already a part of a network. Win Friends and Influence People back in October 1936. He included a list of “Six Ways to Make People Like You.” Becoming genuinely interested in other people is clearly key from his statement saying: “You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them, than in two years by making them interested in you.”
In addition, I would add that while being interested you ought to value and even treasure those relationships. If you believe, as I do, that the only thing you will really take with you or at least have at the end of your life is your knowledge and your relationships then it will be easy. Carnegie’s other 5 suggestions were to: smile, remember the person’s name, be a good listener, talk in terms of the other person’s interest and make the other person feel important. When we are both a good listener and genuinely like people, others will respond better to us.
Sooner or later we will need to reach out to our professional network and these thoughts are not intended to suggest that the process is a process of manipulation. Trust won’t exist if your motives are suspect and not sincere. If you don’t value the relationships it can backfire on you instead. Everyone we meet is part of our life network but the professional network I refer to here are those people whom we turn to when we make a job change or seek information about our professional interests.
Article on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/brent-m-jones/detail/recent-activity/posts/