The difference between 'getting by' at work and being successful is not solely dependent on technical skills or knowledge. We all know colleagues who have strong 'people skills' and not the strongest technical abilities but who nonetheless possess a distinct position of leverage or influence at work. These individuals are focusing on their strengths and use the power of interpersonal skills and networking to their advantage. You can too!
One should never underestimate the power of influence gained through networking. The expansiveness and quality of one's social and professional networks can significantly enhance career potential. How can one go about building a supportive network? This article will explore two practical and simple ways that, when used strategically, will yield the results you want to achieve.
The first things to do are collect and organize the business cards from the people you meet so that you have their contact information. Obviously, collecting cards is just the first step. Find reasons to send contacts an email, call for advice or to give some information related to their interests. Don't do so incessantly, but regularly - once a week or biweekly is appropriate. It generally depends on the significance of your reason to contact them and their past receptiveness. Take the time to research their company website so you can make relevant connections and based on 'inside track' information of what's important to them.
Keep in mind that just as it is sometimes awkward to reconnect with old friends or acquaintances after a period of not seeing one another, the same is true in regards to building a network. The longer you are out of touch with business associates, the more difficult it is to reconnect and get 'back in the loop'. To help you make this a consistent priority, be strategic about your contacts - jot down regular reminders in a planner or electronic organizer so that you don't leave your connections to chance.
Another way to expand and strengthen your network is to invite contacts to an informal gathering or information session that you organize about topics of general or mutual interest. You may facilitate the discussion yourself or bring in a speaker. You could arrange such meetings at a local coffee shop or restaurant - many will set aside a meeting room upon request. On the invitation - whether it be by email, fax or regular mail - outline the proposed agenda and indicate that "coffee or tea is provided - other menu items are at the cost of participants" - unless of course you are able and willing to cover the entire bill! This can be a relatively low-cost way of meeting with contacts and sharing ideas.
This intentional way of meeting your contacts on a regular basis strengthens not only the relationship you have with each of them, but also allows for your contacts to meet one another - an opportunity for which they will be grateful. Such efforts are similar to making an investment that you hope will grow at the opportune time.
These two ways of building your network - regularly connecting with contacts and organizing meetings or discussion forums are simple yet effective career-enhancers. Give them a try and get noticed at work!