Weekly Smart Networking Wisdom of Liz Lynch
Contributing Expert and Career Success! Partner
I spent twelve years employed by corporate America and the past eight years consulting to them on strategy and business development issues. Since the Dow took a nose dive last fall, many friends and some clients have lost their jobs, and those who haven't are the working wounded, taking up the slack for their fallen comrades and waving goodbye to cost-of-living raises, annual bonuses, and 401k matches.
If you're one of the
lucky ones, working for industries and companies unaffected by the economic
crisis, kudos for choosing well. But for the rest of you, listen up.
The worst is not over.
I'm generally a very happy, positive person, so to write such a doom and gloom post is out of character. But, it pains me to see really talented people feel like they got the rug pulled out from under them when they should have seen it coming and had time to do something about it.
It's one thing to start over when you're 20-something, but when you're 40- or 50-something? With car payments, kids in school and a monthly mortgage? Please don't let this happen to you. The fact that the Bunn coffee machine in the break room is collecting dust because no new supplies have been ordered for months, is a sure signal that your employer is getting rid of the non-essentials. Might you be next on the list?
You have to take control of your own career fate. Whether you stay or go, shoring up your network and your personal brand ought to be high on your list. Clearly, networking can help if you're planning to jump ship, and we'll discuss that in more detail in a future post, but how can investing some time in relationship-building help you at work?
While it might be tempting to take cover in your cubicle and lay low until the bullets stop flying, getting out there and being visible is a much more productive strategy, setting the stage for success in your current job and giving you many more options for future ones.
It's who you know and who knows you well
Here are 5 ways to be seen and heard at the office to build a positive personal brand image and strengthen your contact base at the same time:
1. Ask for more responsibility. Layoffs and slower hiring practices may have left your company with fewer hands on deck. So, your boss might be grateful and impressed that you're willing to take on more work.You'll develop a reputation as a team player and a hard worker, which can only help your brand as times get tougher. Plus, you can gain some new skills and experiences, and perhaps even wrangle a higher title, both of which you can leverage for your next job if you decide to leave later.
2. Prep your elevator speech. Imagine getting into the elevator in the lobby of your office building, sipping your extra hot venti soy latte when the president of your division slides in just as the doors close. It's a long ride up, so she asks what you're working on. Caught off guard, you barely manage to put two coherent sentences together, leaving a very fuzzy impression in her mind of your value to the company. Obviously what you're working on is important or you wouldn't be there, so be sure you can toot your own horn when the time comes, because no one else will do it for you.
3. Attend industry events. Most of the time you'll tread a well-worn path between work and home, with little deviation, but getting out to meet others in your industry is one of the quickest ways to add to your network. And meeting new folks when you're not looking for a job will make it easier to make connections because you can focus on the conversation and not hitting them up for leads (not that you should do that anyway). Plus, you may find out important information, or learn about a best practice that you could use on the job or relay to others at work.
4. Grab a sandwich with co-workers. Networking doesn't always have to be formal. The everyday experiences we have with others make up little strands that eventually produce strong bonds over time. Instead of having lunch at your desk all the time, take a day a week to walk down to the cafeteria or the deli around the corner with one or two colleagues. The only real assets you take with you when you leave a company, assuming you don't raid the supply closet before you go, are the relationships you build. Take advantage of that opportunity.
5. Build your online network. You may have ignored those pesky invitations you've gotten from friends to connect on LinkedIn, or maybe you've accepted a few of them, but have done very little on the site otherwise. Filling out your profile and adding people you already know to your list of connections will put you in the flow of opportunity as more recruiters and hiring managers bypass job boards and go directly to their networks to find qualified candidates.
I know what you're saying . . . . That you don't have enough time to do any of these things when you have real work to do. Well, guess what? You don't have time not to do them. Just like they tell you on airplanes, you have to put on your own oxygen mask first before you can help anybody else. You need to secure your own future first before you are physically and psychologically free to do your best work for your employer.
Once you start building stronger relationships and feeling more a part of your professional community, you might even find more joy and satisfaction in your current position. And if at some point you do decide to leave, or your company takes a turn and you're asked to leave, your brand and your network will be stronger then - all thanks to the efforts you're putting into them now.
Read the Liz’s post on the Smart Networking Blog.
Liz Lynch is author of Smart Networking: Attract a Following In Person and Online (McGraw-Hill, 2009) and a sought-after speaker who brings a practical and insightful perspective to networking that has connected with a global audience. Liz is also founder of the Center for Networking Excellence, a company that develops products, programs and seminars to help entrepreneurs and professionals get clients, build their businesses, and accelerate their careers through networking.
Career Success! Partner Liz Lynch is a regular contributing expert on our blog site. Visit us every Friday for Liz's insights, ideas and wisdom on the subject of Smart Networking -- building powerful connections -- offering information that I hope will resonate with you in your journey to achieving incredible career success.
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