Increasing your career prospects -- whether it's the next sale, next job opportunity, or finding your next contract -- is really quite simple: just network. That's what any of the 40 people who attended a networking event at ConnectUs in Oakville, Ont. will tell you.
"You need to network to get work.
Networking is the single most effective way to build a successful business. Good networking skills guarantee continued growth," says Donna Messer, president of ConnectUs Communications Canada and networker extraordinnaire.
Francine Hoffman of Richmond Hill believes it's worth the drive to Oakville for this networking event. At 54, she owns and operates two businesses and spends about $8,000 per month on advertising, but says it's not enough to just advertise.
"No one knows who I am and what I really do from the ad. When you network, people can see, feel, hear and touch you and because of that there's an opportunity to build trust, rapport and a bond with that prospective client," Hoffman says.
Individuals meet each other and build contacts at a recent Network to Get Work event.
Renate Weiler, a workshop facilitator and founder of Executive Mentors,
belongs to five different networking groups. Each group runs things a bit differently, but all of them provide her with opportunities. For example, at one networking session, Weiler met one of the national sales managers for Mary K cosmetics who now hires her to deliver seminars for their staff.
Networking is more than just generating prospects for your business, it's also about getting feedback and advice; giving back to the business community by sharing your network and experiences; and it's a way to broaden your perspective on what's going on in the world of business.
Referrals and new ideas are the reasons Craig Snow showed up at the ConnectUs session after he was restructured out of his job at Compaq. "I am looking to start something new and wanted to get some ideas as to where else I might go in my career," Snow says.
"Coming out to these networking events helps you to identify other areas that you can apply your skills/interests. It expands perspective and gets people to think more laterally about career possibilities," Messer says.
Neville Yhap, 42, came to the networking session in hopes of finding business
referrals, but says he got more than just contacts. "One of the best things I got out of coming to the [networking] session is that I am leaving feeling good."
"Some of the people walk in feeling down and discouraged, but by the time they leave, they will be feeling up because they met people, learned new skills, and got lots of new ideas," Messer says.
But networking works best when you have something to offer too. "Give first and share always," is Weiler's advice. "If I help you, you now become very interested in what I do and helping me."
"Networking doesn't work well when it's take, take, take," says Jennifer Beale, publicist and president of Unleash Power. "If people attend networking events expecting to get back, it can be contrived, but if you go with an attitude of working together to be successful, then it works beautifully."
Messer suggests these ten steps for good networking:
Develop a plan
Research the people you hope to
Be prepared to listen
Force yourself to circulate
Ask for only one thing at a time
Never ask directly for a job
Be willing to give as well as to receive
Take notes when networking
Keep files on all your network contacts
Follow up with leads
It doesn't matter where in your career cycle you are, you still need to network. It's a way to create more business without spending loads of money.
"We succeed here not because of who we are, but because of who we know,"
Messer says. "Networking is the opportunity to sell your strengths and buy your weakness."
For a free monthly newsletter with information on networking and other business events in the GTA, go to www.unleashpr.ca
(Ellen Goldhar is manager, people development at Sun Media Corporation, Canada's second largest newspaper publishing company. Send questions and comments to email@example.com.)
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