Over the past week, I was in the fortunate position to have a discussion with one of Australia’s leading minds on networking. David Schwarz, MD of Board Direction, has helped thousands of people launch or revive their board careers. I asked David a number of questions about networking to which he gave me his candid answers.
- If one is rather new to networking and don’t have much of a network to talk about, what can you do to change this? Even if you already have a network, it can always be grown and improved. You can start by assimilating names. Begin gathering the names of all your current and past business, professional and personal contacts. You can start with a list of all your former work colleagues as well as employers. The next names on the list should be those of college and university contacts. Alumni networks like the one on LinkedIn is very good for this. Then you can start adding people you know or knew from community and professional organizations, boards and committees you served on and current business relations. Don’t forget your private connections. Family, friends, church members, club members and athletic teammates can be a valuable part of your network.
- Once you have all the names written down, where do you go to from there? Your next step should be to initiate contact with everyone within the next 30 days. Send each person a quick email to say “hello” or send an email simply updating your contact information. Those you don’t have contact information for, you should make it your goal to get their information and contact them within this 30 day time-frame. If you leave it longer than that, you may lose focus and in doing so, lose some potentially valuable contacts.
- After making contact with everyone on your network, what is the next most important step? Maintaining contact is crucial to keeping your network vibrant. If you don’t do so, a year or two down the track you may discover your network has become worthless to you and that you have to do the hard work all over again.
- Do you have any ideas for us regarding maintaining contact with your network? In most cases it isn’t like you still see everybody in your network on a regular basis, is it? Maintaining contact shouldn’t be difficult. By applying a few small things on a regular basis, you will be sure that you will always be on their radar when someone in their network needs a referral or a recommendation. Easy ways of maintaining regular contact is to send out birthday cards, refer them to others within your network when a referral will be appropriate, sending out e-mails if you have any change in employment or contact information, sending out a weekly/monthly newsletter with information which will be of value to them or just sharing a new tool or book you know they might find interesting.
- How do you make sure that you keep doing this and keep your network current and vibrant? Build contact network development/maintenance into your weekly routine. Establish a rhythm for communicating to your contact database. Offer help to others in your network who need it and request assistance when you need it. If you follow these guidelines and do them consistently over a period of time, you’ll be amazed at what this asset can do for your career.
Board Direction run a number of services designed for individuals who would like to leverage their networks for board positions. Contact David today if you would like to learn more about this opportunity.