If you want to be pro-active with your networking, consider these suggestions. Networking is not just about going out to events and meeting new people. You’ve got to also think strategically about the network you already have.
Classically, redoing your resume is the first place you start. And while your resume (and more especially your LinkedIn profile) is important, you have to also think about who’s going to be reading that resume or profile, and act accordingly.
And that, of course, means paying attention to your network, and how your written and verbal messaging is going to land.
1. Sorry: it’s your LinkedIn Profile Summary. I realize this is going to exasperate some of you, ’cause I’m always harping on this. But about 95% of the LinkedIn profiles I read either lack an engaging, readable, persuasive Summary – or don’t even have one at all. This is your first and only chance to make a solid impression on someone, so why would you avoid making it 2,000 characters worth of insightful, expressive focus on the value that you provide going forward (vs. what you did in the past)?
2. Re-connect with ten colleagues you haven’t talked to in at least a year. Yes, this could take a while (and it’s a big number for many of you). Make these strategic contacts. They don’t necessarily have to be the right people to help you with an immediate career concern – like finding the next job – but they should be people who are smart, resourceful, successful in their own right, and who “get” you. These are folks you’re going to want to have on your side at some point in the future. The beginning of the year is a perfectly acceptable time to renew old acquaintances. See what happens when you meet for a coffee. At the very least, it gives you an opportunity (actually, ten opportunities) to practice your career pitch. Explaining yourself to the tenth person is going to be a lot smoother and more eloquent than when you explained yourself to the first person.
3. Post Something. Let us know you’re alive. I’m sure you have opinions about what’s going on in your business. Everything everywhere is so disrupted, I would find it hard to believe there’s a topic of interest in your industry that you couldn’t seize and write about. Make it positive and prescriptive – nobody wants to hear you complain or criticize (there’s plenty of that to go around).
Put it on LinkedIn,and then spread it to Facebook and wherever else you and your community congregate. One synergistic benefit: it gives you something to talk about when you meet with your ten colleagues. It also circles back to what you’re going to say in your LinkedIn Summary: refining and expressing your viewpoint is an important window into your professional identity. Cultivate this transparency as a way of deepening and sustaining the connections you make in your extended network.
Usually, I talk about networking as the final step in my 5-step career reinvention process. But it can also be the inception of an entirely new career-building initiative, and definitely a strong way to start out the new year.