When talking about influential people we can all agree on one common characteristic: they are or were different; their thoughts and actions are and were unlike those of their peers, unlike those of the rest of the world. They are the individuals that every company or brand needs to succeed because they are the ones that people listen to, the ones that people follow and mimic. Think about Steve Jobs, about Beyoncé, Andy Warhol and Nelson Mandela, we don’t follow them because of what they have or what they had, but because of what they represent. We are surrounded by these individuals, both influencers famous and not, and they are significant people in our lives. Without us realising it, they are the ones that help us connect, they are where we get our information, and they are the ones that persuade us to do the things we do.
Did you know: nearly 1 in 4 people use social media networks worldwide? We’re not surprised; social media is shaping the way we communicate, how we do business and how we interact. In the dictionary, a tweet is now not only defined as a “weak chirping sound, as of a young or small bird”, but also as, “a very short message posted on the Twitter website”. It’s kind of amazing how much social media has changed our lives in such a short time, and even more incredible is how powerful it has become. Right now, social media is the greatest tool you have to promote yourself, whether you’re looking for a job, selling a brand, or just trying to stay up to date, having a social media presence is imperative.
This tale tells the story of a pupil at the Higher School of Nursing who, having studied hard for one of the course exams, came across a very difficult question. The girl went about the exam, answering all the questions one by one until she read the last one: what was the name of the person in charge of cleaning the centre? The pupil was surprised. Was the question serious? What was the use of knowing the name of that person? Yes, she had seen her at times in the corridors, but she could hardly remember the colour of her uniform and she certainly had no idea of her name. Finally, she asked the teacher if the question really carried points in the exam. To which the teacher replied with a firm, “Of course. You will meet many people during your career and all of them are important. They all deserve your attention, even if all you do is smile or say “Hello”. The pupil understood the lesson and later found out the name of the lady in charge of the bathroom was called Dorothy.
Social media has transformed. If you’re looking for your place in the world today, LinkedIn is where you need to be. Hiring through social media has increased and continues to do so. Over 90% of companies use social media platforms like twitter, Facebook and Instagram to recruit potential employees. LinkedIn, the leader in recruitment via social media has over 97% of companies using the page as one of their tools. With 97% of companies looking at your profile, let’s try to make it 100% perfect.
LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools for your job hunt; over 3 million companies are listed on the site and 500,000 of those company pages were added in the past year alone. LinkedIn connects you to 300 million members in over 200 countries worldwide. That’s a lot of networking, but with an average of 2 new users per second, your profile needs to stand out from the rest. Let’s make sure your page shines.
Networking is a fact of life. Introducing two friends who you think might hit it off? That’s networking. Getting your cousin overseas to show you around the city they live in? That’s networking. The social vine is overflowing with fruit, and if you’re prepared to do your part, the harvest can be rich. Once you’ve looked at different ways to make new contacts, one of the most difficult, and overlooked, aspects of networking is maintaining the contacts you’ve already made.
Growing a flourishing contact garden
1. Identify potential professional contacts/leads.
Think about the people you meet in your day-to-day life who make potentially useful professional contacts. These might include any of the following:
- Your social network
- Ex-colleagues and bosses
- School/university friends and teachers
- People you’ve met on conferences/training days
- Interviewers for previous positions
- Family members
- People you’ve met on networking days
…Which other potential leads can you think of?
2. Make a database of these contacts
If you’re looking to upgrade your old address book, there’s plenty of high-tech contact management software around. And lots of it is free. The type of information you want to keep includes not just names and contact details, but personal details such as birthdays, offspring, interests, minor health issues and anything else you could use as an opening gambit.
- If you have a LinkedIn Premium Account, you can use the profile organiser.
- For Android users, Contacts+ is a great contact manager that even sends an alert to remind you of birthdays. It pulls in all of your different accounts to combine information about calls and contact details in a smartly-presented userface.
- Smartr Contacts is one of the most popular apps for iOS. This automatically finds out info about your connections, which is protected in the cloud. You’ll find a good guide here of how to import your Gmail contacts into Android.
- Plaxo is another easy-to-use way to keep all your contacts on the cloud together.
3. Keep in touch
Networking is a sport! With the advent of the internet, it’s now easier than ever to drop someone a line to say “hi”. You might feel a little unnatural doing so, but it’s important to reach out to from time to time – that’s how new connections are made. Excuses for saying hello might include:
- A thank-you note – always welcome!
- Birthday wishes
- Asking for a small piece of advice – people love to help, when it’s easy for them to do so (see below)
- Sending congratulations
…Any more positive ways to stay in touch?
4. Pay it forwards
When networking, people often make the mistake of asking for more than they give. This can often come from an aversion for taking risks – connecting two people doesn’t always work out. It may also be due to a lack of confidence: it might seem hard to believe that you have much to offer. You have to give to receive, however, and taking the plunge can potentially pay dividends.
An important part of networking is being positive about other people – clearly identifying traits and skills that your contacts have which could benefit others. Don’t forget that you also have your own unique set of skills and talents which is of benefit to the world. You might be able to:
- Let a contact know there’s an opening in your company
- Put two contacts who could benefit from each others’ skills in touch
- Give someone feedback on their CV, interview technique or even just offer a bit of tea and sympathy
- Suggest new directions and career paths, or help someone clarify those they already have in mind
- Invite a contact along to a networking/business event
- Offer to help organise a networking/business event (great way to build contacts!)
- Offer to help with a project, or suggest someone who could
- Teach someone a skill
- Give advice about finding work in a specific sector
…How else could you help?
5. Me, me, me…
Once you’ve carefully tended your network for a while, the time will come to reap the rewards of your hard work. And you should ask for favours – it’s important to take as well as give. Don’t always ask for the biggies straight-off, however – it’s often far more likely that you’ll find help from requesting a selection of small things.
Don’t push your luck, either. We can all forget to get back to people, or be caught in a bad moment, so it’s worth double-checking, but if you’ve asked someone for something several times and they have repeatedly said no or avoided an answer, the chances are they can’t/won’t be able to help. Accept and do not push: they are in their right to say no and being too forceful is unlikely to get you very far in any case. In the future, however, you might want to focus your attention on more “giving” contacts, or you might prefer to ask the same person for something else which they are more comfortable helping you with.
Here are some appropriate things to ask someone for:
- Help with your CV/interview practice
- A cup of coffee and advice regarding career direction
- Advice in learning a specific skill or achieving a specific goal
- Connecting you to someone else
- Passing on job adverts that look interesting
- Accompanying you to a training day/networking event
- Keeping you informed of news from the sector you’re in (or would like to be in)
- Passing on job openings
- Helping you stay motivated
- Helping you with a specific project or event that you’re organising
- Suggesting possible contacts you should try to make
- Giving you feedback on your business card/LinkedIn profile etc.
…More advice on asking for help here.
Genuine networking is not just about asking for favours, but putting time into constructing relationships: maintaining your contacts is really more about adopting a certain attitude than a few quick fixes. It often takes time for the seeds of your efforts to begin to grow, so don’t be surprised if you don’t see results at first, but keep tending and weeding, and eventually your garden of contacts will begin to flourish.