About 20 years ago a boss told me to be a better networker. I thought he was trying to send me a message in case he was planning on taking me out of my job, but it turns out after promoting me he was simply giving me good advice, and it was time to change some bad habits. Here are 5 traits I learned from peers along the way about networking – it helped more than once when looking for a new job, board or consulting project, I hope it helps you also.
1) Never blow off a recruiter. Pick up the phone and call every recruiter who reaches out to you – even if you are not looking. TALK to them. This gives you a chance to update them on your own career, what you are working towards, and build a relationship. Someday you may need their help with your own career, or in finding talent for your own organization. More recruiters knowing what your goals are for your career is a good thing, and knowing who the good recruiters are is a plus. Keep a database of every recruiter who has contacted you and send them an updated bio / resume every year so your data stays fresh in their company archives, and to ensure they know what you are doing.
2) Give a recruiter 2-3 good solid leads every time they reach out to you. Listen to the role they are trying to fill, take some time to think about colleagues you know who can do the job, and follow up. We all know people with talent – this is your chance to help them and the recruiter. Helping place talented people will make you feel great!! I have recruiters call me all the time to tap my network of 14 corporate moves, colleagues and experiences. You are a great source of leads for them – take the time to nurture the relationships and help them and your peers – always give them leads!
3) Reach out to colleagues when they leave a company, even if you let them go. Call them, send them an email, wish them good luck. Leaving corporate roles twice in 32 years, I know what it feels like when people you worked with everyday for 5-10+ years don’t even call or check in with you when you leave, or in the weeks / months afterwards. You learn a lot about colleagues and ‘friends’ when you leave a company. Stay connected to them, check in from time to time (LinkedIn makes that easy). I run a consulting business today and actively engage several former colleagues on projects. It is my good fortune to know world class talent and attempt to stay connected to as many as possible. Most of my consulting projects and board work come from former colleagues and introductions they have made on my behalf. Take pride in helping others with their next job search or in-between projects and know ‘what comes around goes around.’
4) Recognize people when you see LinkedIn updates. If your colleague gets a new job or promotion, don’t ignore the update you see, send a note of personal congratulations. The automatic reply’ you can send from LinkedIn is ok – Preferably, take a few moments to write something personal. It means a lot, and keeps your network expanding and your friendships on track. Same thing with a birthday or work anniversary – stay connected and engaged. Send the note because you care, not because you expect something in return.
5) Take the time to thank people. All of our careers have their ups and down, we make progress, we make mistakes, we screw up. Certain people help pick you up along the way and push you hard to improve. They might be bosses, they might be peers, they might be your own team members, it might be your partner. They seem to appear at critical times in your career, and help you progress. Take the time to thank them, acknowledge how much you appreciate them and their help with your personal journey. Thank you (again) Jackie Nowlin, Bob Lawrence, John Riddle, Pat Loch, Leo Lovato, Bob Baird, Joyce Vanca, Marv Burford, Carl Moe, Jerome Davis, Jack Crocker, Dick Hemp, John Sambuco, Steve Martin, Jim Leavitt, Kent Grover, Frank Smeekes, Pat Davidson, Bev Boock, Mike Pulick, Suzanne Burns, John Howard, Hank Galatz, Paul Kindzierski, Paul Miller, Jim Wesoloski, Brad Seaman, Nick Peters, Peter Gotsch, John Tracy and many many others for your advice, counsel and support!
I certainly don’t have all the good ideas, and have been far from perfect following the above traits 1-5 each and everyday. What other tips do you have and what have you done to boost your networking and friendships over your career?
Share this article if you enjoyed it: (Eric Nowlin is a former Maytag & Grainger executive who moved 14 times in 32 corporate years with 2 companies. He now spends his time serving on boards, advising private equity and investors on distribution deals, networking, giving sage advice to his children at uscapeapparel.com, sweating at bootcamp in Corona Del Mar, skiing at Mammoth Mountain, rooting for all things Cleveland, and sending text messages, emails and LinkedIn messages to friends and colleagues).