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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:

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    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.

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      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.

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        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).

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          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.

           

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          Leon Ho

          Founder of Lifehack

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          Last Updated on October 16, 2018

          How to Quit Your Job That You Hate and Start Doing What You Love

          How to Quit Your Job That You Hate and Start Doing What You Love

          Everyone of us has a plan in our head that was taken over by family responsibilities, social pressure or sheep mentality. This made us a slave to instant gratification and started killing our plan and dreams.

          There is a way to revive your plans and dreams and live a happier life. No amount of salary can exceed your desire to do something that you are really passionate about.

          If you hate your job and have thought about leaving your job, here’s how to quit your job and start doing what you love:

          1. Identify if you really want to quit to follow your passion

          There could be many possible reasons to figure out why you are discouraged to go to work and start thinking about how to quitting your job. Figure out the reasons or signs that make you feel that you should really quit your job.

          If these reasons are not related to your office environment or your ultimate goal is to pay your bills from your job, you should consider getting a new job in the same field. It’s better to be an experienced receptionist than to live a dream that is not yours.

          2. Start with the side hustle and keep it going

          Work after you get back home and build up your product or service enough to gain confidence to quit your job.

          Build the website, write down the business plan, design your product, make marketing collaterals or do whatever it takes for you to start working full time on your new venture before quitting your current job.

          You could also consider part-time working opportunities if your current job sucks a lot of your energy. This way you could save your energy and dedicate more time to your side hustle.

          Ensure that you don’t quit until your new venture really demands your full time dedication. You might lose interest in your new venture if you fall short of survival money.

          3. Save enough to pay your bills

          If you need to pursue your passion, you need your monthly bills to be taken care of, without any worries. You must cut down on unnecessary expenses and squeeze in those extra bucks on your savings while you are at your current job. You should forget those weekend parties and social outings unless they’re meant for networking.

          It makes no sense to quit your job without having any savings. Your new venture will not start paying you immediately. Starting a recurring deposit account is a good idea to start off with. Put aside a considerable amount every month as soon as you get your paycheque and forget about that money until you quit your job.

          4. Write down your goals

          It is important to have visual proof and a daily reminder of why you quit your job and started a new hustle.

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          Write down your goals and read them at least once a week. If you are a forgetful person, create cell phone or desktop wallpapers of your goals and set them until you achieve them. Visual proof keeps you on track.

          These goals are the bigger picture of what you wish to achieve in your pursuit to doing what you love.

          For example, if you are wish to design the best dresses in the whole state, write it down. If you wish to fly to Mars, write it down. If you really wish to give up your career for something, it better be worth remembering everyday. Show it to yourself daily.

          5. Make a plan

          Write down a plan of action for the next 12 months. It’s like writing down an elaborate execution plan in your calendar. This could be a daily, weekly or monthly to-do list of your tasks to achieve your goals.

          Learn how to make a plan if that’s not your area of expertise. Ensure that you know what you’re going to do next and not run like a headless chicken after two months of working for yourself.

          Review the plan time and again to track your progress. This will give you a clear picture of your performance and your shortcomings.

          Also, have a backup plan. Even great planners and strategists fail before achieving success. Ensure that you have a second plan if your first one does not work out as you predicted.

          6. Get professional advice

          Talk to experienced people in the field you want to venture out. Go to networking events and connect with people in your industry. Most people will help you out with good advice and good contacts.

          Get professional courses in part time colleges. It could be great to network and the teachers can be of great help to understand more about the industry. They will help you analyse your plan and connect you to influential people.

          7. Prepare yourself to put a resignation

          Prepare yourself mentally to quit your job after you’ve realized the potential and prepared yourself to take a deep dive into your new profession.

          Leave on a friendly note. Don’t make enemies with your bosses. These connections could help you further in your profession.

          Don’t burn the bridges. It’s better to have a face-to-face conversation with your boss or reporting manager than sending a surprise mail.

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          Tell them sincerely about your new venture and why it is important for you. Serve the notice period completely and work till the last day. Complete all your tasks as you would on a regular day. This will maintain your respect and keep your relationships intact.

          8. Be prepared to get your hands dirty

          As an entrepreneur, you have to do everything that’s needed to keep your work going.

          You have to perform all the tasks needed to keep your new venture going. You have to be a janitor, an administrator, an accountant, a designer or a salesperson all at once.

          There would be a point of time where you will have to perform tasks that aren’t your favourite. Be ready to perform such tasks without cringing.

          9. Have no baggage

          Don’t have a debt! Clear all your loans, debts and pending commitments before starting off. You want to fully concentrate on your new activity and not be bent down by loading your shoulders with any burden.

          You would want to enjoy your freedom to work incessantly. No distractions whatsoever are allowed to come close to you when you are fully involved in the rhythm of development. Shun away materialism!

          10. Don’t be in two minds

          It’s good to analyze the best and the worst possibilities in your head, but it’s not at all good to doubt yourself.

          Move ahead with confidence. It’s your life, your plan and your rules. Nothing and nobody can stop you from doing what you wish to do.

          The more you start getting noticed, the more people will point fingers at you. Don’t let them affect you and create doubts in your head. As William Shakespeare said,

          “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”

          11. Learn to handle failure

          You are going to be a loser and it’s a good thing! If you fail and lose, you will learn to not repeat your mistakes and make yourself stronger with every punch you throw out.

          It takes time till you start losing. The key is to not be demotivated by failure. The more the failure, the more closer you are to success.

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          12. Try your hands at investing in stock market or cryptocurrency

          It’s a good way to keep your side income rolling in. While you are busy building your dream project, you could invest your money in the stock market or cryptocurrency and let it grow while you sleep.

          As Warren Buffet famously quoted,

          “If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.”

          Find a good stock broker who has enough experience to not lose your money. Stop immediately if you are losing a lot of money. Don’t burn away your money.

          13. Keep a healthy routine

          It’s easy to forget about your health when you are working on something that you’re really passionate about. Set reminders about your health routine.

          Exercise! Most successful people start their day early and take time out to exercise at least thrice a week. It helps you give more energy and time to your work.

          Always remember that you started your new venture to be happier. Bad health will not let you enjoy your success.

          Join yoga classes or learn meditation from youtube. Avoid sitting too long at one place for more than 15 minutes at a stretch, take breaks. take a walk, especially up-down the staircase as much as you can to skip age related joint pains and muscle atrophies.[1]

          14. Enjoy your days off

          Taking a break helps your creativity and clears your mind from clutter. You need your days off to come back afresh and take on your tasks. You can’t be working 24/7.

          Remember that being able to take your days off is one of the beneficial quirks of an entrepreneurial journey. You can have a routine designed by yourself, for yourself.

          Take your days off when you are too stressed and can’t think straight. Self-discipline might sound simple but practice takes ages. Schedule down time for yourself.

          15. Take these steps to quit your job without burning bridges

          Resume.io has this infographic about the steps you should take after you’ve decided to quit your job:[2]

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            16. Remember why you quit your job

            Lastly, remember why you quit your job and started doing what you love. There would be bad days that will make you regret your decision, but don’t let them dominate the reason why you took the plunge.

            Your soul wasn’t happy with what you were doing. Your new venture is what you always wanted to do.

            Never forget that.

            If nothing works out, you could still go back to any job you want, but at least, you’d be spared from regrets and constantly arriving “What if?” question in your head.

            So, start now and live without any regrets.

            Execution matters more than thought. Turn your dream into a reality starting today. Start small and grow big.

            Besides, it’s never too late to do what you want to do. Here’s the proof:

            How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

            Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

            Reference

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