By now, we all know about the importance of networking. So how can we optimize our approach? Networking should be a way of life - not something that's done only when transitioning out of the military or when in between jobs.
To assist you with your networking journey, we've combined “8 Secrets from Power Networking Pros” by Molly Triffin with thoughts from MOAA's career experts to offer the following strategies:
Give before you receive. This philosophy is the underpinning of all networking. Networking works best when you establish the mindset to help others first. Who would benefit from what you know or the connections you can make?
Although networking might involve mutual assistance between people in many cases, it is not quid pro quo. You should not be assisting others with the thought you are making a few deposits as a token for asking the other person for a favor. Do not make other people a means to an end. Rather, have the mindset to assist others first and build a relationship, and if good will comes back your way, then that is a positive side effect.
Ask for a strategic introduction. This is one of the greatest benefits of LinkedIn. Use LinkedIn to its fullest. Determine if you have a contact who works at a company or is linked to an individual where you would like an introduction. Once you've discovered who you know, explain to your contact why you recommend making the introduction and then ask if there is a willingness to do so. After you are linked to the desired contact, this is the perfect opportunity to unlock one of the most powerful tools you have - the informational interview.
Don't just collect cards. How many of us have a collection of business cards tossed into a drawer, never to be looked at again? You do not need to take a card, or keep a card, from everyone with whom you interact. You are better off to ask for and accept fewer cards and take action to build a relationship with the owner of each card you collect. Put notes on the back of the person's card as soon as possible to make it easier to remember what connected you and when and where you met. Several apps are available to transfer and maintain business cards on your mobile devices. Find more advice in "6 Tips to Use Business Cards Successfully."
[RELATED: MOAA's Transition and Career Center]
Follow up - and then follow up again. Building the relationship works best if you follow up with the other person quickly, and then establish a maintenance system for long-term connection. Use the business card to make notes from your conversation, and weave these bits of knowledge into your initial follow-up. Establish a routine to make initial contact within the first few days after meeting someone, when it is still fresh in your mind, and then set aside time on a regular schedule specifically for maintaining your relationships. This might be as simple as liking a post or as in-depth as a personal email or phone call.
Uncover your contact's passions. Just as if you would research a job before going to an interview in order to demonstrate interest and knowledge, you should use available resources to understand the person with whom you would like to develop a relationship. This shows more than perfunctory interest on your part and helps you to connect and determine where you can be of service.
Deepen your network pool. Diversity in any organization strengthens the fabric of it, and diversity in your network is essential. This is an area where the diversity of the military serves us well, as we should all have this built in to some degree to our existing connections. Maximize the use of this by connecting with those of different ages, ethnicities, and different service branches. Think about connecting with a 360-degree view.
Don't overly market your profile. Set high standards, and be selective. If you do not know the person making the request, open their LinkedIn profile and see if this is someone with whom you want to connect. Be judicious. In turn, in order to assist others when you are requesting to connect, take an extra moment to personalize it. Let the other person know what spurred your request and why you are making it.
(Read “Should You Accept That LinkedIn Connection Request?” for tips on when you should accept or ignore a connection request.)
Seek common ground. This is a strength of military members. It is what you do every time you are at a new installation or with a new command. Find the shared interests and commonalities between you and the other person, and develop rapport. Where do you like to vacation? What are your interests and hobbies? Let your personality shine through and connect.