By Alvah Parker, Parker Associates "How do I grow my business through referrals?" "I was just downsized and need another job, what are your suggestions?" "How do I find that company?" These are the questions people ask me.
While each question has an array of answers, one answer that comes up for all these questions is to network. Whether you are a business owner, work in business or are starting a new career, having a network of people to support you is imperative.
A client told me she was concerned about her job. She was well thought of, dependable and hard working but her company was losing money. A layoff was imminent. After 20 years with the same company she had no idea how to look for a new job on the outside.
Another client wanted to start a new business. His business required funding to get off the ground. With very little capital of his own he needed other resources. How did he find those resources? He too had no idea where to begin.
Both these people found the help they needed in their own personal network.
What is the first step in developing that network? Start with your community, that group of people that you work with, live with, are related to or share an interest with i.e. your family, friends, peers. These are people you spend time with and enjoy. They share your values and care about you. Being with these people makes you feel good to be you. They accept you for who you are and give you confidence in yourself. Developing that community is an important first step for everyone. If this network is in place for you today, nurture it! If it is not, develop it.
Your core community can lead you to many other people. Someone once told me that everyone knows about 200 people. Ask someone in your network to introduce you to two of those 200 people. Your network grows. Develop your own network even further by joining organizations in your own field of work or related fields. Your network will become a resource for you in your current job. Your contacts can tell you about new products and services, help you find resources when you need them or even be a resource themselves. They can update you with what's hot in the market. Those same people may be interested in buying your product or working for your company. And of course at sometime you may be interested in working for their company.
A client of mine was a freelance writer. She got frequent freelance writing jobs with her local newspaper but wanted to expand into writing for magazines. She had taken courses in writing a query letter (a letter inquiring if the magazine would be interested in a story on a particular topic) but every time she wrote a query letter herself it got rejected. She really needed a mentor who had had success in writing query letters. In a coaching session I asked her where she might find one. She thought it might help to join an organization of freelance writers. She joined that organization and found her mentor.
Networking can be fun, rewarding and very useful. Why not try a few of the action steps below.
- Join a new work related organization and make a point of meeting at least 3 people at the first meeting.
- Have coffee with a family member you have not spent time with recently. Ask about their challenges and joys and share yours with them.
- Find ways to enhance and deepen your workplace connections to keep them thriving. Have lunch with someone in another department.
- Contact a friend you have been meaning to call and let them know what you have been up to. Make sure to find out what they have been doing too.
Parker Associates is a business started by Alvah Parker who specializes in personal and business coaching for individuals. Alvah worked for AT&T for 15 years in their sales and marketing division where she won numerous awards for excellence in sales. She was twice selected for AT&T's prestigious Council of Leaders, an honor reserved for those in the top 3% of the AT&T sales force.