Who can help? Why should they? Keep these two questions in mind whenever you think about networking. It’s not enough that someone has the ability to help you. They also need some kind of motivation to do so.
It’s easiest to think of professional contacts as your network. They know your work history and achievements, and they are most likely to have the kind of contacts that will open doors to a new job. However, personal contacts are equally important. These are people who often care about you more than your professional contacts. They will make the extra call or push harder to get someone to look at your resume.
Be sure that your personal and professional networks know your goals and how they can help you. If you are changing careers, it is especially important to help all of your contacts understand your new goals and why you will be successful in a new profession. Remember they have to sell you to someone they know. If you are trying to get a position in human resources, and they only know you as a teacher, they will likely be talking about you in terms that potential employers don’t want to hear. You need to help them understand how you will bring value to a human resources department as a former teacher.
Never let conversations with your network contacts focus solely on you. Ask about their lives and careers. Find out if there is any way you can help them. When networking becomes a one way street, your contacts will start to feel used. Eventually they will not return your calls or email. Give your network partners motivation to help you by showing how you are willing to help them.
Just as you would send a prospective employer a thank you letter after an interview, you should send a letter to your contacts – or give them a call – whenever they have given you a good lead. They will feel involved and invested in your success. Keep your network active, educated, and motivated about your career. Don’t forget to say thank you. And help your network partners whenever you can.