By: Kaplan Mobray at www.kaplanmobray.com
Today’s economic environment has reemphasized the importance of networking as a business strategy, job-search tactic, and survival tool for professionals, small businesses and entrepreneurs. While networking has always been an effective way to create future opportunities, networking in a recession is more about current survival and efficiency than it is about securing future growth prospects. In a recession businesses are forced to protect their most valuable assets while shedding non-value producing activities. Similarly, networking in a recession requires you to brand your most valuable assets to connect with others while eliminating the activities that do not make yourself memorable or project your winning brand.
So how can you be more effective at networking during these challenging times? And what should you do today to network for your career survival?
I would argue that the very same survival instincts that are present in animals are necessary to effectively network in a recession. So if you are looking for a way to create opportunity, here are 10 tips to network in a recession that will help you secure your current survival, become more efficient and build the growth prospects for the future of your business and career.
Be a Hunter-Gatherer
In a recession how you connect is more important than the number of contacts you have in your network. Have a hunt mentality that leads you to be proactive in reaching out to professionals who have like interests, work in like industries, or people you know you can immediately help succeed.
* Tip #1 Use websites like linkedin, facebook, amightyriver.com, and twitter to hunt for contacts.
* Tip #2 For every contact you gather in your network seek to have specific examples of how you helped that person succeed.
The more contacts in your network that you have personally helped to succeed, the greater the return on your networking investment and the opportunities that will come back to you to feed your business and career over time.
Spot Predators and Prey
Effective networking is not just about spotting great contacts to help you get a job or advance your business, it also means spotting those relationships that don’t benefit your network, help you build your brand, or help you help others. If you are someone who has a solid professional network, you may be a target of predators who want to tap into your network and prey on your contacts. Protect your network at all costs.
* Tip #3 Only refer people and business contacts that will enhance the mutual value of your network.
It’s your personal brand on the line when you allow a network predator to negatively penetrate a relationship that you have spent years building through goodwill. Remember, you will be known by who you refer.
Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection essentially states that “the strong survive.” The basic idea is that when change occurs, those organisms best suited to the new circumstances will thrive. Those who are not ideally suited will not be able to compete.
In a recession you must compete.
* Tip #4 Ask the contacts in your network to give you a reference, write an online appraisal of your capabilities that shows up when people Google search your name.
* Tip #5 Ask your contacts to connect you not just to a job site but to someone who has direct influence on hiring decisions.
The more direct you are in going after what you want, the greater your chance of thriving in a recession.
Sometimes your best offense is to stand out by not being too noticeable. In other words find a way to maintain a consistent expectation of quality associated with your name. When you are consistent and known for something, the expectation will be that you will continue to be a value-added activity. This consistent impression will allow you to camouflage and avoid the chopping line when times get tough. Focus on leaving a lasting impression always. It will help you stand out by not being too noticeable.
* Tip # 6 Endorse the contacts in your network by establishing formal and visible links that allow others to gain awareness of their products, services, and capabilities. Link to their website, add them as a friend, or simply talk about them when you have an opportunity to talk about you.
You can help the contacts in your network survive in a recession based on their positive association with you and your personal brand. If you are valued by others, the entities you associate with will be valued as well.
Fight or flight
Survival of the fittest often means winning by fighting for what you are worth. When looking for a job in a recession it’s easy to sell yourself short and accept less than what you are worth. Whether it’s a salary, business proposal, or offer to purchase your business, what you fight for will show much about your worth. If you get a job offer for much lower than you believe you are worth ask yourself is it worth it? And what will it say about your future capabilities if you have accepted an offer that indicates your limited potential?
* Tip #7 If you are a “job-seeker” make sure you let prospective employers know that you should be hired not just to fill a current need but to hire you and pay you based on your potential. Bring your potential into the interview by stating the specific results you will achieve when you get hired.
When you fight to be recognized for your potential, it will help elevate the perception of your worth.
Networking in a recession requires you to adapt to the changing environment of how people connect and how employers select candidates. Today it is much easier for an employer to screen candidates based on what the Internet has to say about you well before they select you for their slate. This is not only a cost-saving measure but an effective way for employers to save time in making sure they are bringing in someone who is not going to damage the reputation of the company by being an employee.
In a recession it is important to help a company save time. As you do, you will help them reduce the costs associated with determining your value.
* Tip #8 Send a prospective employer published articles, a summary of past accomplishments, web links to awards and recognitions that you have received and a list of key relationship contacts in your network, in advance of an interview or meeting. This will help the interviewer save time in assessing your skills and give you more time to spend focusing on how you will demonstrate future contribution.
* Tip #9 Present yourself not as someone with one skill for one job but rather as someone who has multiple skills for multiple opportunities.
In today’s economy employers are looking to deliver more with less. Your ability to demonstrate multiple ways you can help a company grow will give you a competitive advantage in a crowded field.
One of the most effective ways to network for success is to mimic the activities that have made others successful. When you apply what others have learned to create an approach that works for you, you can successfully pattern your own success. Here’s what I have learned that hopefully will help you too.
* Tip # 10 I make a point to call 10 people in my professional network each week. I check-in, ask for ways that I may be of help to them, and offer one piece of advice. Where possible I also make sure to connect a person in my network to another person in my network who may share a like interest or skill.
Over time this focused approach to staying connected has not only made me a trusted advisor and coach but has also enhanced my personal brand. It also ensures that when I call on one of my contacts in a time of need it will not be the first call.
Final thought: The worst thing you can do to network in a recession is to be the person who is calling only because they need something. At all costs avoid being “that person”, use these survival instincts to create a game plan for your success.