Without a doubt, the key to successful executive networking begins with careful preparation. Here are my top 10 tips:
1). Develop an action plan
View the creation of a networking plan as you would any executive or business plan. Know your goals and the outcome you desire before you start and stay focused. Decide what you will do and when you will do it. Then execute your plan systematically. Determine to do at least one thing every day to touch your network.
2). Prepare your self-marketing message
Ask yourself: “How do I want to be perceived? How am I perceived at work? What message is consistent with my strengths and my unique contribution in the marketplace? What information will be relevant and important?” Have your sixty-second sound bite and your two-minute self-marketing message prepared, smooth and concise. A coach and a personal brand strategist can help you put together and articulate a powerful and unique value proposition.
3). Gather valuable information
Research using search engines, an online company information database, the library, business journals, news articles, and informational interviewing to determine which companies you are interested in. Then find out all the information on them that you can, including products/services, market position, competition, industry trends, mergers and acquisitions, customer satisfaction (or lack of), financial stability, and current company challenges.
4). Think connectivity beyond the norm
Focus on connecting with individuals and executives that are not only working for, but are vendors of, clients of, or distribution partners of your target company, or who are in some other way connected. They don’t have to work there to be a key connection for you.
5). Plan to meet your target contacts where they are – or plan to be
What professional or community associations does your target contact belong to? What luncheons or dinners do they attend? Which conventions do they frequent? Where are they scheduled to speak? Find out and go there. Meet them. Or, if you cannot attend, use the event connection (order the audio tape if they spoke!) to warm up a direct call and get their attention.
6). Determine the specific outcome you desire
Before each networking encounter, ask yourself what you would like to come away with as a result of meeting? For example, are you looking for a lead, a contact name, or information on a company’s particular challenges or successes so that you can tailor your approach? Stay focused on your desired outcome, but flexible enough to build on what you are given.
7). Know the correct methods of approach
If you take the view that you are not looking for a job, you are looking for opportunities, leads, contacts, and information, you will be more successful. In addition, approach each networking contact politely, unselfishly, and with a great attitude. Consider finishing your meetings by asking: “Now, what can I do for you?” You’ll make a lasting impression.
8). Network with other executives of similar and different competencies
Locally or nationally through various methods: join professional and executive e-lists, associations, niche sites, networking teleconferences, industry meetings, etc. View others not as competition, but as cooperative partners in your job search, you’ll find as you give, you’ll also receive.
9). Increase your visibility
Volunteer your expertise, write an article, offer to speak at an industry association. It’s a principle of attraction that can work for you and you’ll gain valuable exposure.
10). Stay on track with a follow-up log
Promised to call someone two weeks later? To email an article to someone you met? If you keep a log of your networking phone calls and meetings, and a note about what was discussed, you’ll find it easier to follow-up and you’ll have a quick note to refer to when someone follows up with you weeks later.
Try these networking tips – before you know it you’ll be surrounded by a strong network and in place to move into your next position!