Networking: It’s All About Planting Seeds

At Career Transitions Center West Michigan (CTCwm), we work with our members to develop their skills, strategies and tactics to move them forward to the next step in their professional lives. Our members come from various backgrounds that have brought them to the realization that they need a strategic plan to move them forward and that going it alone can be time-consuming and frustrating. Some members have come to take charge of their futures “at the point of an arrow or barrel of the gun”. Those of us that have worked in human development can attest that true change does not happen unless a stressor is applied to a static condition.

As we put together individualized approaches with our teams of volunteers from human resources, career services and the business community, we are finding that the most effective next step strategies includes an inclusive, interactive networking strategy.

The research continues landing the next step in your career strategy is through networking.  “There are a variety of job search strategies; however, networking results in an average of 60% to 80% of all job offers.” – Johns Hopkins Career Services Center, “Networking” Resource Guide, 2010.

Our experience at Career Transition Center West Michigan supports this finding as all of our members to date successfully achieve their career goals through networking.

So how does a strategy help get you where you want to be – the next step in your career?

When we discuss approaches to each individual’s networking strategy, we always start with taking a look at the roles your networking contacts play in your strategy.

There are two roles in an effective network: the facilitator and the target. Most of the action in your networking strategy is going to be “lighting up” your facilitators. Targets are those that directly influence decisions to move you forward; for example a hiring manager. How are you going to approach them with your strategy?

Remember, networking is a life-skill, and the most successful people at networking understand that it’s more than “pressing the flesh”. It’s about establishing and maintaining relationships.  Planting and nurturing seeds of relationships is a wonderful springtime vision of this process.  Take care of, or if you will, “showing the love”, to your facilitators.

As a gardener, I know that sometimes the seeds that you plant may not germinate as expected. Much to my delight and surprise, little treasures pop up when least expected.

Last year, Impatiens which are an annual flower, made a repeat appearance without me planting the fully matured plant from the greenhouse. They had seeded from the year before and the results were lovely hot pink blooms. Unplanned, unexpected, and delightful. Networking can produce similar results; without direction, they can appear fruitless and sometime chaotic. Let’s take a moment and consider this concept.

Mike O’Brien at Climber.com tells us, “I was recently at a conference in Las Vegas; it was clear that there were those who were reaping and those who were planting.  The most successful people I met always wanted to introduce me to someone else.  They were not dead ends, they were planting seeds.  Once they met you they were invested in you. Your success and theirs were intertwined.  By the time I had flown home, they had already followed up with an email or a LinkedIn invite.   Each person they met and connected with added value to their network.  In turn they become more valuable to their current employer and those they might work for in the future. They were hubs not spokes, and they are the type of people companies want and need to hire.”

NETWORKING USING LINKED IN TO BUILD YOUR NETWORK

One of our CTCwm members recently landed a great position at a new company. When we asked him what he thought was the key to landing his new job, he quickly replied, “Networking”.  He shared with us that he went on LinkedIn, the tool of choice for professional social networking, one day to check status updates. This is a regular practice we encourage our members to actively engage in as part of the social media piece of their networking strategy.

He noticed that a former colleague landed a new position with a company here in Michigan and sent along a note of sincere congratulations. This member was nurturing his relationship by acknowledging the successful transition made by his former colleague.

The former colleague replied saying there was an opportunity in our member’s area of expertise at the new firm and offered to forward our member’s interest to the hiring team. One month later, our member started his new job in a company providing chemical elements for electric car batteries.

This company and this job did not exist five years ago. It is in a new, high demand field – electric vehicle production. By nurturing his network, our member found a career opportunity that was unplanned, unexpected and delightful.

So as you craft your networking strategy, focus on quality and not quantity. Be a facilitator for your facilitators. Be mindful of the lessons from the garden; plant seeds today for flowers to bloom in another season. Remember to watch for the unplanned, unexpected and delightful results.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

 

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