10 Important Benefits of Networking
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Trivia About 30 Minutes To I Occasional mailshots have another function: they act as a reminder to everyone that you are still there, still as approachable and available as ever and still just as keen to network with them. This having your face in the frame is known as visibility and you will see as you move through the book that visibility is an important part of networking. For example, visibility is what you may have to focus on if you find your networks are starting to dry up.
These days most good high street print shops will do you a set of stationery at a reasonable price.
Who Should Be In Your Network?
Your letterheads can be used for any correspondence you have with your network contacts eg mailshots and your compliments slips can accompany any other items you send through the post. Your cards are to keep with you at all times so that you can give one to any interesting contacts you happen to meet. The invitation to network is there and with your card the person has all the information he or she needs to get hold of you. There is a further point to having a nice set of personal stationery: it feeds out a message about you as someone who is organized and disciplined and this will do you a power of good with your lifelong interview.
Auditing it from time to time is designed to expose the flaws. Keith worked with Elaine in his last company and he knows her to be bright, energetic and keen to get into a job that would involve world-wide travel. Knowing she is rarely in the office, and not wanting to give rise to any suspicions by leaving a message with one of her colleagues, he has been trying to ring her at home. The number, however, is permanently engaged.
When she is at home she has taken to spending the evenings surfing the Internet, meaning her phone line is blocked to incoming calls for long periods. To illustrate just how basic it can get, we had an instance a few years ago of a job candidate who rendered himself unavailable because his dog was in the habit of pulling the phone plug out of its socket! Loss of availability is serious because there is a limit to the amount of time and effort people will be prepared to put into trying to network with you. If your phone line is always engaged, or if no one ever answers, sooner or later these people will give up.
If so, is there someone reliable to take messages for you? How hard are you making it for people who are trying to get through? Advances in the range of services that telephone companies offer facilitate good networking, although to what extent you buy in to these services is going to depend on your need.
Beware of going into overkill. Note: focusing on your availability is important for other reasons too. For example, if you are applying for a job, a prospective employer may try to ring you at home in the evening to fix up an interview. If time and time again the number is engaged, or if no one answers, this person, at some stage, will give up. The penalty for you is that you miss out on the chance of an interview the employer will move on to someone who is more available. E-mail, voice mail and mobile phones On the face of it, all of these should serve to enhance your availability and they will, provided you use them correctly.
E-mail and voice mail With e-mail and voice mail telephone answering you need to be disciplined about reading or listening to your messages and to do this as soon as you get back to base. You need to make it a rule, too, that you never leave messages undealt with for more than 24 hours. Do be 27 The Power of Networking careful about this. If, for any reason, you find that several days go by before you can respond to a message, or if someone asks you to call before a certain time and you are unable to meet the deadline, be ready with your apologies and explanations.
The other person will naturally read into it that there was no good reason why you failed to get back to them promptly and, as a result, they will either view you as unsatisfactory and disorganized or, worse still, feel that you attach insufficient importance to your relationship with them. Though Nigel has consistently been applying for jobs ever since the day he received notice of his redundancy, he has had no joy at all and this is what decided him to try his hand at tapping into his networks.
They both graduated at the same time. Karen got a job with a firm of management consultants and, in the two years since finishing at business school, she has made excellent progress in her career. When Nigel came on the phone to her, Karen said she was truly sorry to hear of his misfortunes and promised to do what she could to help. This, she said, would include having a word with Helen, one of the senior partners in her firm.
- You already know how to network.
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After listening to Karen, Helen was at first reluctant to do anything, then, because of her high regard for Karen and because Karen gave Nigel such a glowing endorsement, she finally agreed to meet him. Could he make Thursday? Karen told Helen she would check with Nigel that evening and get back to her in the morning. Karen rang Nigel as soon as she got home from work and she was greeted by his friendly voice on the answering machine saying that he was out and inviting her to leave a message.
This she 28 Making Your Networks Work did, asking him to phone her as soon as he got in and, so that she would be there to receive his call, she cancelled her plans for the evening. Karen sat and waited. Again, she was greeted by his voice on the answering machine and again she left a message to make contact immediately, this time emphasising the urgency. Next morning, Karen bumped into Helen in the corridor.
Had she heard from her friend? Helen wanted to know. Karen explained the problem and said she would be trying to make contact with Nigel again that evening. This she did but only to find that the answering machine was still on. She tried again at hourly intervals up till midnight when she finally gave up and went to bed. Karen spent two more evenings trying to get hold of Nigel till in the end she concluded that for some unknown reason he had disappeared off the face of the earth.
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Feeling by now deeply embarrassed, Karen reported back to Helen and when Helen said she felt they had given Nigel enough chances, Karen had to agree with her. Hardly believing her ears, Karen immediately demanded to know what the devil he had been playing at all week and explained the difficult position he had put her in.
Nigel sounded surprised. He had rung Karen just as soon as he possibly could. What this case study illustrates is how a gadget designed to enhance availability, like an answering machine, can sometimes turn round and floor you.
How Leaders Create and Use Networks
Karen did her best for Nigel and, even though he had plausible reasons for not getting back to her sooner, she would have to have the qualities of a saint not to feel let down by him. More to the point, she put herself into an awkward position with one of her principals, 29 The Power of Networking meaning, from her point of view, that she may have done damage to her reputation by being seen to be associated with someone who is unreliable.
The likely upshot? The expectation with any kind of message-taking facility the same goes for e-mail is that the message will reach the intended ear fairly swiftly and, if a response is sought, the response will come back fairly swiftly too. He or she will be presumed to be behaving unsatisfactorily and, in this context, it is interesting to reflect that poor Nigel might have done better without his answering machine.
It might even have prompted her to seek other ways of contacting him. The lesson here is that if you do work away a lot or if, for any reason, you are not able to check your telephone or email messages regularly then you must either have some means of accessing them remotely or your network contacts must have some other way of reaching you. Mobile phones For a lot of people, mobile phones figure prominently in their availability. In all of these cases, the availability your mobile phone was intended to give you is effectively wiped out and you achieve nothing except to frustrate callers trying to get through to you.
Limitations of availability aids So what useful lessons can we learn from this quick overview of availability aids and their limitations?
How Leaders Create and Use Networks
Chiefly this: there is no product or service that will give you perfect all-round availability, hence our comment earlier — availability is something you need to be constantly striving to perfect. Instead, give the people you want to network with a number of different ways of getting hold of you, eg office, home and mobile telephone numbers. Getting the two-way traffic moving Both availability and its counterpart approachability are there to ensure that the in-bound traffic on your great networking superhighway keeps flowing for, without the inbound traffic, there will be nothing going back the other way.
She decides, therefore, to phone Joanna at home one evening. Joanna is just about to sit down to watch a programme on television when Jill calls and her annoyance is evident straight away from the tone in her voice. She uses the excuse that she no longer has access to the database on which mailing information is stored. The effect of this conversation with Joanna will be to deter Jill from networking with her in future and, as we saw in the case of Sally Ann and Jen see page 13 , this is fine if 32 Making Your Networks Work deterrence is what is sought — ie if Joanna wants to distance herself from Jill because she has reservations about her.
Where it comes into conflict with other routines the equanimity that it calls for may need a bit of effort to coax up. As a general rule, and as far as people on your network are concerned, nothing should be too much too ask.