Sometimes I see corporate professionals shying away from networking. So much of their world is within the network of their employer. So many people that they need to connect with just within their own organization.
This does need to be balanced with a strong external network. We all need to continuously forge new connections and build relationships across many spheres of our lives: professional, personal, community, hobby/interests, school, industry. You get the idea.
The most progressive networkers I have seen in action have been entrepreneurs. Even more so than job seekers. Entrepreneurs truly understand the value that connecting and building people bridges can have on their futures. It’s so much more than an activity; networking is a strategy and one that pays off both in the short term and the long term.
I recently posted a video segment from a TV interview that I had with Jim Pellegrino, host of THE HOUR. This wonderful opportunity arose because of a recommendation with a professional colleague of mine, David O’Brien, leadership consultant and owner of Work Choice Solutions and author of the book The Navigator.’s Handbook 101 Leadership Lessons for Work and Life. This is a wonderful book to use as a team-building exercise and discussion guide.
This video outtake focuses on why I left Corporate America after 20+ years of experience to begin my own entrepreneurial journey. I also wrote a blog article about it in I outline my thoughts as to what it takes to make the career jump to the entrepreneurial lifestyle. You might enjoy it: http://marketingmotivator.net/moving-away-from-corporate-life-to-entrepreneurship/
What does it mean to network like an entrepreneur?
When entrepreneurs network they assume a certain demeanor. This attitude drives their behavior and leads to more effective networking. Here’s what it looks like:
- They act like they own the business. They have an appreciation for the bottom line and what drives it. They can speak intelligently to the big picture of what the business is all about, not just what “their job” is.
- They can promote themselves and their business at a moment’s notice. They have their elevator pitch prepared and practiced and feel perfectly comfortable giving it. (if you need help perfecting your pitch, check out my audio training program – http://marketingmotivator.net/downloads/networking-skills/)
- They understand that they must give before they receive. Entrepreneurs are open to sharing connections, ideas and resources to help others be successful.
- They brand themselves on-line and off-line. Entrepreneurs see the value in social media marketing (hello! free marketing!). They make the effort to craft a compelling and consistent brand across all channels of media. They also know that when they show up in person, they are the brand!
- They see value in building a large sphere of influence. Entrepreneurs are open to magic of networking and building many, many mutually-beneficial relationships. They make an effort to stay visible and valuable to the people in their network so that they remain “front of mind” when the time of opportunity comes.
- They are excellent at follow-up. Entrepreneurs take the initiative to follow up with new leads and connections. They see each new connection as potentially valuable to their future livelihood. They develop the discipline and organizational systems to assist them in networking follow up, as they do in other parts of their business. If they need help, they seek outsourced hired help. After all, they are running a business.
- They invest in themselves. Unlike corporate professionals, the entrepreneur has to foot the bill for all the things he/she needs, from business cards to conference registration fees. An Entrepreneur makes the economic decision about whether these expenses will bring value to his/her business and future. An Entrepreneur pays his/her own way; he/she doesn’t expect someone else to foot the bill for his/her own professional development.
You might find this additional article interesting “How to succeed during a recession: act like an entrepreneur”, by Peggy Klaus, posted in the blog European Business Review.
Your Networking Goal for this Week
This week act as if you are entrepreneur, the owner of your business. The CEO of Me, Inc. Put your strategic hat on and figure out what connections and relationships would be most meaningful to the success of your enterprise (i.e., your career). Prepare yourself to meet the public and to talk about your business venture and what you need. If you do nothing else, make sure you get out of the office at least once this week to do some networking. Make it a goal to meet and get to know at least one new person this week. Secure that new connection by following up via social media (i.e., send them a Linkedin invitation with a personal message referencing your initial meeting). Continue to foster that new relationship as if that person could become important in the value chain of your entrepreneurial venture.
One additional assignment this week, assume ownership over your professional development. It is NOT the responsibility of your boss or your company to provide for you in this way (that’s entitlement thinking). Figure out what you need to advance yourself (i.e., new skills, more self-awareness, professional exposure, mentor, sponsor, more knowledge or certifications). Then figure out how you can get it and what level of investment you are willing to make in you. As I tell my executive coaching clients, “When you hire me, you are investing in yourself. If you are not willing to invest in yourself, I’m okay with that.” The question is ‘are you worth it?”
About the writer: Kathy McAfee is known as America’s Marketing Motivator and is author of the book Networking Ahead for Business. She has successfully run her own enterprise for the past seven years, after enjoying twenty plus years in Corporate America. (check out Kathy’s resume). In her role as Executive Presentation Coach and Professional Speaker, Kathy helps her clients to become the recognized leaders in their fields by mastering the art of high engagement presentations, more effective networking and personal marketing. To learn more about Kathy, visit her web site MarketingMotivator.net. If you like this tip and want to receive free networking tips on a weekly basis, please sign up at NetworkingAhead.com