Paying It Forward II


As I stated in Paying It Forward, networking should be a continual activity.  Some people are blessed with large networks while others struggle. But I’m here to tell you that you can turn it around.  I went to a very small college preparatory high school (Go Spartans!) with only 28 graduating seniors.  Then, I moved on to a small, private college (Emory University plug) with a graduating class under a thousand. (Proud to say I have moved up to the University of Florida Gator Nation! Go Gators!)

Moreover, by relocating coast to coast multiple times, it seems like I lost my network over and over. Relocations, divorces, layoffs or job separations; there are many reasons to lose connections and I think I am guilty of all of the above, but it wasn’t until the last five years, yes with the advent of social media, that this failure really hit home. How did I lose track of so many people in my life?  And why? Thankfully, social media has also come to the rescue.  Over the past 5 years, I have used LinkedIn, and other social media platforms, to reconnect and build my network.

If you are networking from scratch, first realize that a grand network won’t happen overnight.  You should accept that building a network is a multiyear project. At first, you may think you are helping others more than you think it is helping you, but when it does help…..ah, the sweet spot. Statistics tossed around state 70% of new job opportunities are found through network connections. You can network in person or on social media platforms (shocking, I know).

Still resisting social media? Sure I have heard some argue (my brother!) that if they are on LinkedIn (or another platform) and networking, their employers will think they are looking for a better opportunity. Well, you should be doing that too! But you should always be networking and paying it forward – IRL (in real life) or on SM (don’t make me spell that out too!).  By now, most firms have their own LinkedIn page and expect employees to have a LinkedIn presence.  As a manager, I encouraged my employees to complete their profile and properly represent the firm.  I suspect your firm would approve as well. After all, it is free advertising!

To add to the plethora of LinkedIn and networking tips and articles out there, I highlight my top seven social media networking strategies below.

  1. Know your settings!
  2. Be a proactive connector not collector!
  3. Mine your connections’ network.
  4. Focus on local connections.
  5. Seek industry & alumni connections.
  6. Group participation.
  7. Post, like and share. Participate.
  1. Know your settings!

I cannot emphasize enough: Know your settings! This is one of the most important rules of social media. If you are busy, or get frustrated drowning in multiple email notifications, turn them off! Know your notification and privacy settings and social media will become manageable and, I dare say, enjoyable.

  1. Be a proactive connector not a collector!

Be a proactive connector rather than a collector.  Everyone has seen the LION (LinkedIn Open Networker) moniker. I have found that most of the LIONs are merely collecting contacts. Bling. Bling. Networks work better if you actually communicate with your contacts.  Get to know your contacts. When sending an invitation or accepting one, send a personalized email thanking your contact and offering help from you or your network. Strike up conversations. Ask open ended questions.  And do NOT spam your new contact! Total faux pas!

  1. Mine your connections’ network.

Mine your connections’ networks. This is the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon of LinkedIn. The Faberge of LinkedIn. When you make a connection, you see their connections, and so on and so on and so on. Review your connections’ network for new potential contacts. Ask your contact to introduce you, or reach out on your own. I enjoy connecting my networks and have done it many times. Pay it forward!

  1. Focus on local connections.

Social media is great for its reach, but sometimes a little local color is preferable.  I seek out local contacts and try to build a closer connection. Try to meet local contacts over coffee or lunch. In-person meetings still trump online communications.

  1. Seek industry & alumni connections.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but I assure you there are plenty of people who fail to reconnect with alumni or other people working in the same industry.  These connections already have something in common with you. This is proverbial low hanging fruit!

  1. Group participation.

LinkedIn Groups are a great way to meet new connections, learn or teach.  As an early adopter of LinkedIn, I used groups extensively to build my network.

  1. Post, like and share. Participate.

Be in the game.  Enough said!

Next time I will discuss my IRL networking strategies.  Until then, pay it forward!

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