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It's the career buzzword you hear all the time: Networking. But what exactly does it mean? It’s about knowing which colleagues and professionals can help advance your career either through a referral, an introduction or by passing on a business opportunity to you. People will want you in their networks for the same reason.
Here’s a not-so surprising fact: Men make up 80 percent of senior management positions in America, according to the 2013 Grant Thornton International Business Report. Just 20 percent of executive roles are filled by women While studies have shown that women are typically better networkers than men, we don’t always connect with the right people. Career opportunities often trickle down from management through word-of-mouth, so if you can't connect with the senior vice president of a company, try to bring someone into your network who works with him or her.
Here are 3 more ways to be a better networker:
Think about who you know
Start identifying people you know who can help you land a new position or introduce you to someone who can. Think about former colleagues, clients, vendors, suppliers, mentors and alumni who work in your field, or people you’ve met at tradeshows and other events. If you're on LinkedIn (and you should be), start inviting those people to connect. Next, do a Google search to target professional associations and membership groups you can join, and find out which groups your manager and other senior colleagues are a part of.
Reconnect with people you’ve lost touch with
Has your network seen better days? Then today is the day to start rebuilding it. If you’ve let professional relationships lapse, reconnect by inviting an old contact to catch up over coffee or have lunch. If you’re thinking of changing careers, re-prioritize your current contacts to see who's connected to people in the industry you want to work in. Consider going to a trade show or conference to meet new people -- your company may even pick up the tab.
Talk career with your most well-connected friend
Have a friend who seems to know everybody? She could be a valuable person in your network, even if she’s not in your industry. The social butterflies among your group of friends are a great source of connections because they travel in a number of social circles and enjoy making introductions. Malcolm Gladwell calls them your “power connectors” in his book The Tipping Point. Talk to these friends about your career and chances are they’ll know someone to put you in touch with. Introductions to these friends-of-friends can be instrumental in broadening your professional network and gaining access to new job leads.
As you meet new people, make sure to establish a meaningful connection before you look for favors. Your initial conversations might be full of small talk, but they’ll give you a chance to learn more about that person and his or her job. Remember, you’re looking for information first, not a job. Find ways to help your connections, like sharing new opportunities with others. The result? They’ll be much more likely to pay it forward when you need help.
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