By Tim Tyrell-Smith, founder of Tim’s Strategy®, a job search strategy website dedicated to helping people succeed in their job search, career and life.
If you’ve been out of work before or have been part of a similar career transition, you know the incredible importance of a strong network.
The network is made up of people who will help solve a major problem for you. In most cases, they do this by offering a job lead, an introduction or a friendly suggestion on growing companies in your community.
In most cases, it’s not hard work on their part, but it requires knowledge, action and some level of empathy or fondness for you.
But here’s the problem: Most of us do a pretty lousy job of keeping up with our network.
Those who’ve never been out of work often have a relatively small network including a few friends, family and work associates. Former job seekers, despite a strong knowledge of the value of a strong network, get busy with life, kids, hobbies, and yes our work.
Everyone can do a better job. But can we “do it all” while maintaining and building our network? Building and maintaining a long-term career network isn’t difficult, but it requires commitment and focus.
There are three ways you can build a strong network – one that will be ready to help when the darker days arrive.
#1 Help Others First
It’s easy to say no when asked to help someone. But what’s easier is to ignore it. All the emails, phone calls and LinkedIn invites from people that you ignore are simply the network you haven’t met yet. If you are so busy that you can’t help personally, have a network of people you can refer them to instead. You will still have helped.
All those vendors that called on you for 15 years will help you find a new job so they can guarantee an appointment week one in your new job. But those you ignored might not feel so inclined.
While ignorance can feel blissfully freeing, it is a short-term solution and not the way to endear the world to you for a future “ask” if necessary, right?
#2 Join A Community Board Or Organization
Your community might be your local city (Atlanta), your industry (medical devices) or your function in the work world (sales). And getting involved within your function outside of your company is critical to building a long-term career network. Not only do you have access to the people who might hire and refer you but there is also a world of traditional resources (e.g. job boards) that you’ll have access to when the need arises.
One of the biggest problems I see with job seekers is that their strongest, most helpful network (their former fellow employees) is the one they just separated from. And former co-workers are not the best helpers.
Many companies consist of transient networks. When you leave the nest, you need to fly and eat on your own.
#3 Start Something
It’s one thing to be known in a community beyond your company. It’s another to be known for something in that community. We are drawn to leaders and to those who risk their own brand equity to create something.
So what could you create that would help your community and establish a firmer platform for your career? Is it something as simple as a LinkedIn group? A blog or website full of community resources?
Think bigger and maybe it’s a non-profit for a hobby or cause you believe in (it doesn’t need to be work-related).
You know how important a career network can be – it’s time to start building one.