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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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          1 How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business 2 20 Inspiring Vision Statement Examples (2019 Updated) 3 How to Quit Your Unfulfilling Job and Lead Your Dream Career 4 8 Critical Skills for Workplace Success and Career Advancement 5 How to Find Work Motivation When You’re Unfulfilled at Work

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          Published on March 20, 2019

          How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

          How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

          Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

          As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

          While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

          What is a Mission Statement?

          Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

          In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

          “Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

          In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

          Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

          While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

          First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

          While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

          While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

          “To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

          This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

          What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

          When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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          Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

          When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

          • What we do?
          • How we do it?
          • Whom do we do it for?
          • What value are we bringing?

          Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

          After all, that did check off all the boxes:

          What we do? Provide widgets.

          How we do it? Online.

          Who do we do it for? The consumer.

          What value we bring? The best widgets.

          The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

          Compare that mission statement to this one:

          “We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

          What’s the difference?

          Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

          Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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          You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

          A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

          Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

          1. Keep It Brief

          Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

          You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

          2. Have a Purpose

          A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

          Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

          3. Include a “How”

          Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

          How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

          4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

          This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

          Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

          5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

          It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

          Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

          6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

          Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

          7. Think Long Term

          A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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          8. Get Feedback

          This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

          Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

          9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

          You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

          First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

          And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

          For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

          The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

          It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

          First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

          If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

          Strategic Planning

          A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

          Measuring Performance

          By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

          Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

          Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

          Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

          As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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          Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

          To Hold Management Accountable

          By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

          So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

          If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

          To Serve as an Example

          This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

          After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

          Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

          Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

          Final Thoughts

          Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

          Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

          That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

          By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

          More Resources About Achieving Business Success

          Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
          [2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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