Advertising
Advertising

Today’s Career Challenge: Start Networking Like a Pro

Today’s Career Challenge: Start Networking Like a Pro

You can’t afford to build a career in a vacuum. Even the most independent professionals still need colleagues, clients, mentors, and friends. You can settle with the network you already have, but meeting new people has its benefits. The more people you meet, the more opportunities you have to learn new things, take on new challenges, and exchange interesting ideas. With a broader network, you can even get better business opportunities. If networking has all these benefits, why aren’t more people doing it?

One problem with networking is that it is a broad, ongoing activity. It seems like a daunting task. This is why most people just give up and wait around for the “right people” to come to them. But what are the odds of that happening without any effort on your part? This is why you need to set up a system to make networking easier. Your challenge within the next 24 hours is to set up that system. Why a 24-hour challenge? So that you can take action now and get results as soon as possible.

With that said, let’s get started.

1) Set up a tool to capture and manage your contacts. Estimated task time: 15 to 30 minutes.

The first thing you should do is to pick the right tool. You’ll need something that will allow you to input, gather, and analyze information in each potential contact’s profile. While you can fiddle around with a spreadsheet or a database for hours, this solution isn’t ideal. Setup should be easy so that you have no room for excuses or procrastination. The quickest way is to use an online form management apps, since it takes less than half an hour to set up an account and get your forms ready. There are many options out there, such as the popular Survey Monkey or Survey Gizmo, but personally I use PandaForm which has more features available to free users so we’ll be using that in the example.

You will be creating a “Potential Contact Questionnaire”. It’s a simple form where you can input details about each person you want to meet, including how you plan to introduce yourself and other relevant information that can make the introduction easier. Here are the fields you may need for your form, with the suggested field types in parentheses:

Advertising

    Contact information. Of course, you should start off by creating text fields for basic contact information such as the person’s name, email, and phone number. Don’t worry if, when filling up the form later, you realize that you can’t find the email addresses or phone numbers of your potential contacts. You can add an extra text field for “contact page link” instead if there’s a contact page on the person’s website. Don’t forget to add other fields like “Company” or “Mailing Address”, especially if you want to send notes or greeting cards via snail mail.

    Tip: When using PandaForm, you need to make sure that email notifications are off so that when you input a contact’s email, they won’t receive a message by mistake. You can do this by clicking “Save” at the bottom, then clicking on “Settings”, then the “Notification” tab. Finally, click the “Off” button under “Send Confirmation Email”. See the screenshot below for an example:

      Primary website (single line text). Almost everyone has their own website or blog today, so it’s important that you know this. Apart from being a means of contact, their website can be a way for you to find ways to initiate contact.

      List of other relevant links such as a additional websites or blogs (paragraph text). If your potential contact has more than one site, you can type them up here, one URL per line – after you’ve built your form, of course.

      Advertising

      Additional reference links (paragraph text). These may include any relevant interviews, articles, and other resources that can help you learn more about the person.

      Individual text fields for links to their social media profiles. You can add individual text fields for links to each of their social media profiles. In this example I only used one field for LinkedIn and another for Twitter, but you can add additional fields for Facebook, Tumblr, and other social media services you use.

      Answers to “Why do I want to meet this person?” or “I hope this person will be my…”. List all the possible reasons you have for wanting to meet this person. Some options may include having them as your mentor, collaborator, contractor, or even just a friend to bounce ideas with. Since you can have more than one option per person, the best way to input this data is via checkboxes (see below)

        A paragraph field for “How can I help this person?” Networking isn’t primarily about what other people can do for you, it’s about what you can do for them. By looking over a potential contact’s list of websites, blogs, social media profiles, and related links, you’re sure to find at least one way you can help them.

        A paragraph field for your notes. You may need to jot down a few bullet points about the person you’re contacting. Include any “dealbreakers” that may turn off your potential contact. Some people may not like generic or template emails, extremely long emails, or unsolicited phone calls. They may also be vocal about the things they appreciate, such as courtesy or correspondence that gets straight to the point. If they mention any of these things, include them in your notes. Tip: An alternative for PandaForm users is to use the “Comments” text box that appears when you’re editing individual entries.

        Advertising

        Create additional fields depending on your needs. You can create a few more fields and customize the form to suit your situation. For example, a simple text field for “Friend in common” allows you to write the name of a friend, relative, or other acquaintance that you and your potential contact have in common. You can also create an additional field for the date you’re planning on contacting them or even a draft of the first e-mail or phone call you want to make. Add as many fields as you need, but don’t overdo it.

        Once you’ve finished your form, you can publish it. Then, bookmark a link to the published form on your browser for easy access whenever you think of a new potential contact. Click here to see what your published form may look like. Of course, it all depends on what fields you end up using.

        2) Make a list of 5 to 8 people you’d like to meet. Estimated task time: 5 minutes.

        Now comes the easy part – listing the people you want to contact. We all keep track of people we wish we knew, even if it’s just in our heads. Listing their names and basic contact information is a concrete step towards meeting these people in reality. You can write the list down in a sheet of paper or, better yet, open up your form and start creating an entry for each person – even if it’s just their names. The key to this task is just to start with your shortlist of potential contacts. You can fill up the rest of the questionnaire after you’ve listed at least 5 people.

        3) Fill up your questionnaire for each person on your list. Estimated task time: 10 to 15 minutes per contact.

        If you already used your form to list your potential contacts by name, edit the entries internally so you can complete the rest of the questionnaire for each contact. In PandaForm, you can do this by going to the “Forms” page and clicking on the form name. You’ll be taken to the records section where you can see all the data you already typed in when listing your contacts (see below).

        Advertising

          Fill up the more difficult fields such as their contact information, list of websites, and anything else you haven’t filled up yet. When filling up the entry for “How can I help this person?”, make your answer as concrete as possible. Instead of writing something like “help them improve website”, write “send a quick email about the typographical errors you found on the homepage”. Having a concrete, action-oriented answer can make initiating contact easier.

          4) Contact one person on your list today. Estimated task time: 10 to 15 minutes.

          Now, go over the data you’ve gathered. In PandaForm, do this by clicking the name of the form in the Forms page and you’ll be directed to the list of records you’ve entered into your questionnaire. Choose a person from your list, open the record you’ve created about them, and start contacting them using what you already know. This is where your answer to “How can I help this person?” really comes in handy. It can be a great way to introduce yourself and provide value to the person you want to meet.

          When completed, the time investment you spent on creating this system may only take 40 to 60 minutes. The rewards you get, however, will be reaped for a long time. Once you’ve created your questionnaire and get into the habit of filling it up every now and then, all you need to do is choose one of the people on your list and start contacting them.

          Take on today’s challenge and start networking. You’ve only got today to make this happen – otherwise, you risk forgetting about it altogether. If you like my workflow, implement it with PandaForm and share your progress in the comments.

           

          More by this author

          Leon Ho

          Founder of Lifehack

          Book summary: A Technique for Producing Ideas 10 Ways to Extend Laptop Battery Life Bob Parsons on His 16 Rules for Survival Free note taking templates and techniques Fifty Essential Topics on Economics

          Trending in Work

          1 Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change) 2 8 Things to Consider When Making a Career Change 3 6 Important Interview Questions for Employers to Ask 4 15 Best Interview Questions to Ask Employees 5 10 Ways to Build Positive And Effective Work Relationships

          Read Next

          Advertising
          Advertising
          Advertising

          Last Updated on January 13, 2020

          Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

          Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

          Are you challenged at work? Do you regret career decisions? Are you happy? If the answer to the questions leads to a negative feeling, it is time to determine next steps.

          Many people settle for a career that no longer brings satisfaction. Most will respond by stating, “I am surviving” if a colleague asks them “How’s work?”

          Settling for a job to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle is stagnation. You can re-direct the journey of a career with confidence by taking control of future decisions. After all, you deserve to be live a happy life that will offer a work-life balance.

          Let’s look at the reasons why you need a career change and how to choose a career for a more fulfilling life.

          How to Know if You Need a Career Change?

          The challenges of dissatisfaction in a career can have a negative impact on our mental health. As a result, our mental health can lead to the obvious appearance of stress, aging, weight gain and internal health issues.

          You deserve a career that will fulfill the inner desire of true happiness. Here are common factors that it is time for you to change your career.

          Physical Signs

          Are you aging since you started your job? Do you have anxiety? What about work-related injuries?

          It feels amazing to receive a pay cheque, but you deserve to work in an environment that brings out the best of you. If the work environment is hazardous, speak to your boss about alternative options.

          In the case that colleagues or your boss take advantage of your kindness, feeling the anxiety of fear of losing your job because of a high-stress environment may not be right for you.

          Mental Signs

          One out of five Americans has mental health issues, according to Mental Health America.[1] In most cases, it is related to stress.

          Advertising

          I remember working at a job in a work environment where harassment was acceptable. I had to walk on eggshells to avoid crossing the line with colleagues. My friends started to notice the difference in that I seemed out of character. It was then that I knew that changing a career to freelancing was the right decision.

          Here is a list of mental signs of workplace unhappiness:

          • The tension in your neck
          • Difficulties with sleeping
          • Unable to concentrate
          • High anxiety
          • Depression

          If you start to feel your self-esteem is diminishing, it is time to consider if working in a high-stress industry is for you. The truth is, this negative energy will be transferred to people in your life like friends and family.

          Are You Sure You’re Not Changing for the Wrong Reason?

          Most people that feel they need a career are frustrated with their situation at work. Do you really understand your current situation at work?

          The reason it is important to think about the work situation is some people decide to change career for factors that are insignificant. Factors that can potentially change if the person works in a different department or new organization.

          Here is a list of unimportant factors to think about before you decide to make the transition:

          Desire for an Increase of Salary

          The desire for a higher income can persuade some to believe they are in the wrong career. The issue with this is more money requires more time in the office or taking on several positions at a time.

          At times, pursuing a high-income role can be the complete opposite of what one is expected. It is what happens when a colleague leaves a company to a new one and returns several years later.

          Overnight Decision

          Let’s face it. We make overnight decisions when stressed out or disappointed with situations at work. The problem with a quick decision is the negative and positive points is overlooked.

          Rejected for a Promotion

          I have heard stories of managers that applied ten times for a position throughout a 5-year period. Yes, it sounds to be a lengthy process, but at times, a promotion requires time. Avoid changing a career if you do not see the results of a promotion currently.

          Advertising

          Bored at Work

          Think deeply about this point. If you work a job that is repetitive, it is normal to feel bored. You can spice it up by changing the appearance of your desk, socializing with new employees in a different department, joining a leadership committee at work or coming to work with enthusiasm. Sometimes, all it takes is you to change jobs into a fun situation.

          A career change can take time, networking, education and the job search process can be a journey. Here is a list of things to consider before making a final decision:

          • How long have you worked in your career?
          • What is the problem at work? Do you work well with the team?
          • Do you receive recognition?
          • Can you consider working in a new department?

          If after reviewing your work situation and none of the above recommendations can help, then it’s time to make a career change.

          How a Career Change Will Change Your Life

          I have a friend that works in the medical industry. She was once a nurse working directly with patients in one of the top hospitals in her area. After five years, she started to internalize the issues with her patients to the point where she felt depressed after work hours. It impacted her relationship with her family and she almost lost herself.

          One day, she decided to wake up and take control of her destiny. She started applying for new medical jobs in the office. It meant working on medical documentation of patients which is not an ideal career based on what society expects a medical professional to perform. But she started to feel happier.

          It is a classic example of a person that was negatively impacted by issues at work, stayed in the same industry but changed careers.

          A career change can fulfill a lifelong dream, increase one’s self-esteem or revive the excitement for one’s work.

          You know a career change can be the right decision to make if you experience one or all of these:

          • Working in a negative workplace: Don’t be discouraged. A negative workplace can be changed by working at a new organization.
          • Working with a difficult boss: The challenges of working with a difficult boss can be stressful. All it takes is communication. You can address the issue directly with a manager professionally and respectfully.
          • Feeling lost about what you do: Most people stay at their jobs and settle for mediocrity because of the fear of failure or the unknown. The rise to success often comes with working a tedious role or stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. If you fear the idea of being involved in activities that are new, remember that life is short. Mediocrity will only continue to make you feel as if life is passing you by.

          How to Make a Career Change Successfully

          The ultimate key to success is to go through a career transition step by step to avoid making the wrong decision.

          1. Write a Career Plan

          A career plan has a dead line for action steps that includes taking new courses, learning a new language, networking or improving issues at work.[2] A career plan should be kept in your wallet because it will motivate you to keep pursuing the role.

          Advertising

          You can learn how to set your career plan here.

          2. Weigh Your Options

          If you have a degree in Accounting, write down five positions in this industry of interest. The good news is diplomas and degrees can be used to a variety of roles to choose.

          You don’t have to stick to what society holds a top job. In the end, choosing the right role that will make you happy is priceless.

          3. Be Real About the Pros and Cons

          It is time to be honest about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the job market that are impacting the current situation.

          A SWOT Analysis of a career can include:[3]

          • Economic factors
          • Direct competition: Is this role in high demand?
          • Location: Do you need to move? If the goal is to work in tech and living in Cincinnati is not realistic, consider moving to San Francisco.
          • Achievements: To stand out from the competition achievements like awards, committee involvement, freelance work or volunteering is a recipe for success.
          • Education: Do you need to go back to school? Education can be expensive. However, online courses, webinars or self-study is an option.

            A career blueprint is the first step to creating realistic goals. A person without goals will be disappointed without a clear direction of what to do next.

            4. Find a Mentor or Career Coach

            A mentor or a career coach that works in the desired position can share the pros and cons of working in the role. Here is a list of questions to ask a mentor:

            • What is required to be successful in the role?
            • What certification or educational development is needed?
            • What are the challenges of the role?
            • Is there potential for career advancement?

            A chat at a coffee shop with a mentor can change your mind about the desire for a career change.

            Find out how to pick a good mentor for yourself in this article: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

            Advertising

            5. Research Salary

            Some people decide to change careers for a role that pays less or perks like benefits to make up for the difference in previous to potential salary.

            It can reveal the cities throughout the country that offer a higher salary for those that have an interest in relocating for work.

            6. Be Realistic

            If your goal is to move up into an executive position, it is time to be honest about where you are in your career.

            For example, if boardroom meetings, high-level discussions about financials or attending weekly networking events are boring, an executive role may not be right for you. If you are an introvert and working with people every day is nerve wrecking, you need to reconsider a job in sales.

            Ask yourself if you can work in this role for the next five years of your life. If other benefits that come with the role are enticing, other roles are fit that will make you happy.

            7. Volunteer First

            A person that wants to become a manager should take on volunteer opportunities to experience the reality of the position.

            Becoming a committee member to pursue a presidential opportunity can provide a perspective on leadership, maintaining a budget and public speaking.

            Volunteer in a role until you are certain that it is the right opportunity.

            8. Prepare Your Career Tools

            I recommend asking a boss, colleague or mentor for career tools. If you prefer professional assistance, you can seek out resume writing assistance. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing career tools:

            • Online search: Search your name online to see what shows up. I recommend searching images that are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or other sites on a personal account. The last thing you want to realize is the job search is unsuccessful because there is unprofessional content you posted online.
            • Be LinkedIn ready: Recruiters conduct a LinkedIn search to see if the work experience is the same on a resume. Remember to change the wording on LinkedIn from the resume, or it will appear there was no effort put into creating the profile.
            • Portfolio: A portfolio of work is recommended for people that work in the arts, writing, graphic design and other fields. I recommend a portfolio online and one that is available in hand when attending job interviews or networking meetups.
            • Cover letter: A good cover writer will always impress your potential employers. Here’s how to write a killer cover letter that stands out from others.

            Bottom Line

            It takes time to move towards a new career. Pay attention to the physical and mental signs to maintain your health. You deserve to work in happiness and come home stress-free. If you avoid the common mistakes people make, you will find a job and discover the role in a career field that is the best fit with your skillsets.

            Master these action steps and changing career paths will be on your terms to make the best decision for your future.

            More About Career Change

            Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

            Reference

            [1] Mental Health America: The State of Mental Health in America
            [2] MIT Global Education & Career Development: Make a Career Plan
            [3] Creately: Personal SWOT Analysis to Assess and Improve Yourself

            Read Next