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Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 23 – Networking

If you don’t have a job, remember that looking for and finding a job IS your job, until you get one. If you are half hearted in your attempt to find work – I’ll apply for that position tomorrow, I’ll re-vamp my CV later, then you will get half-hearted results. They say that you only get back what you are willing to put in. Well I have to disagree with whoever “they” are. I think the “universe” definitely rewards those who take the time and the trouble to give – be it time, money, kind, knowledge. The reward is usually far greater than you would reasonably expect to receive. Some people say it is the three-fold law of three, some say it is karma. Whatever your philosophy or belief happens to be; all you have to remember is that which you focus on is what you will receive. If you are focussing on daytime TV and books and movies that do little other than entertain, then you will not attract the job you want, the lifestyle that you want, the people that you want to be around. As Zig Ziglar says “What comes out of your mouth is determined by what goes into your mind.” If you fill your mind with positive belief that you will get the job of your dreams, but do not do the studying you need to get the qualifications required, or you spend time in the coffee shop with your friends rather than on your job application, then I have to say that you are deluding yourself.  Yes, you have to have positive belief in yourself, that is important. But you must also back up that positive belief with positive action.

What are you going to do today to get the job that you want, and the career that you deserve? Who do you need to talk to? Where do you need to go, who do you need to see? This month’s newsletter looks at the art of networking.  If you are serious about your career and learning everything that you can possibly learn, then networking is just as important as the last job interview that you went on, possibly more so. There are some people who think that they have “made it” when they get their first professional position, and sit back and relax and put their feet up on the new desk, and assume that the promotions and pay rises are assured. Working on your job and your career is just as important as getting a job in the first place. There should be no room for complacency in your professional life.

We hope you enjoy reading. Have a great week.

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In this Issue we will be looking at:
• I Believe – Brian Tracy;
• Networking – What is it?
• Networking Do’s and Don’ts;
• Where to find the events;
• A Word on Business Cards;
• A Thought to ponder.

I Believe
I will start this month’s edition with a few words from Brian Tracy, one of America’s foremost business development and personal development leaders. He says:
“I believe every person has within themselves inexhaustible reserves of potential they have never even come close to realising.
I believe each person has far more intelligence than they have ever used.
I believe each person is more creative than he or she has ever imagined.
I believe the greatest achievements of your life lie ahead of you.
I believe the happiest moments of your life are yet to come.
I believe the greatest successes you will ever attain are still waiting for you on the road ahead.
And, I believe through learning and application of what you learn, you can solve any problem, overcome any obstacle and achieve any goal that you can set for yourself.”

Networking – What is it?
It is perhaps Brian’s final sentence that sums up what this months newsletter is all about. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that most people reading this would assume that networking is a social event. A chance to catch up with friends and colleagues that you haven’t seen in a while, or something that sales people do in a bid to earn more commission.

Well it might well be a social event, a chance to let your hair down after listening to a speaker drone on about some thing or other. And yes there will always be sales people waiting to engage you in conversation whilst trying to sell you on some idea or other as you wait in line to grab your share of the food and drink on offer. Whilst both are seemingly valid interpretations of what networking is, it is, in my opinion much more than either of those interpretations.

In its most simplest form – Networking is an opportunity to learn from as many people as you can in the time that is available to you.  It is also an opportunity to share the knowledge that you have gained to the benefit of those around you.

There are some people who may mistake networking for mentoring.  Mentoring can be defined as “a wise or trusted adviser or guide.” If you are open to the thought, then you may meet many mentors throughout your life, both personally and professionally. And I would have to say that if you do not have a mentor for both parts of your life then you are missing out on huge opportunities for growth and development. You may even meet a future mentor at a networking event, in fact it is highly likely that you will, because “networking” is, “an interconnected group or system.” The key word here is “interconnected” you should all have things in common, things to share with one another.  If you don’t then I would hazard a guess that you are either at the wrong event, or you have been delegated the task.

Of course, as with all gatherings, it is wise to understand some of the unwritten rules.

Networking – Do’s and Don’ts
Know what you want to get from the networking opportunity. If you think that its all about “who you know” that matters, then I would suggest that you are mistaken. Yes, who you know is important, but what is more valuable in the long run is “who knows you”.

Word of mouth is still the most powerful marketing tool there is, or ever will be. Use it wisely and people will do business with you, or refer business to you, endorse you and your products, open business and job opportunities that you had not even dreamt of – once they get to know you. However, just as positive recommendations can open you up to opportunities you may only have dreamt about, so negative comments, gossip and people talking about you “behind your back” will harm you and your chances to get on in your chosen industry.

Be remembered for the right reasons; do not abuse your hosts’ hospitality. Do not drink too much, speak too loudly, dominate every conversation and stick like a limpet to the “guest speaker”, yes I’m sure we’ve all been to events where we’ve seen these things happen, and I’m sure you can all remember the person(s) who were involved.

If your one aim is to have a “good time” and meet with friends and have a drink, I would suggest that you go to another venue because you will learn little or nothing of value and importance, and all it will do is give everyone else a topic to discuss – yes “you”.

If however, you set yourself a clear goal to learn as much as you can from your fellow networkers, and to pass on interesting and useful information should the opportunity arise. And that is also a key “if the opportunity arises” – be a good listener as well as a good speaker, take the opportunity to learn as much about the people with whom you are talking, and then you may find a way that you can help them. It may be a paper that you have written or a book that you have read, it may be a person that you know that you can recommend they speak to, you will also learn if there are job opportunities or opportunities to do some consultancy work – if you make a habit to listen more than you speak. 

You should also make a habit of taking business cards with you. If you don’t yet have a job and a business card to give out, consider getting some made. At the very least make sure you get the business card of those people with whom you are talking to. And make sure that you follow up on your promises. If you have promised to send something, then make sure that you do – as soon as you get back home or to the office, or at the latest – the following day. That way you will be known as a person of your word, of integrity and someone with whom they can trust.

Remember that networking is not just about “who you know” that matters, its also “who knows you.” It may be that the person you spoke to doesn’t have any jobs on offer, but they may know someone who does, but if you don’t follow up or follow through, then those doors that you spent a considerable time prising open will be shut and locked in your face. Done correctly, doors can be opened in directions you had not even considered before you went to the event. But you must not be so blinkered that you cannot see them when the opportunities arise.

As I mentioned earlier, networking is like selling and marketing. You are your own marketing tool, and like all good sales people they know when to follow up, and they know when to back off and find another prospect.  And so must you. Do not fall into the trap of spending the entire evening with one person, or a small group of people. Chances are you will know most or all of them. Yes you will feel comfortable, and like most people who are unsure of themselves they will stick with what they are doing, because they are comfortable doing it. Well you’ve made it this far, so why not step outside your comfort zone and go and say hello to the person who is standing at the back of the crowd with their eyes fixed on the crowd, or the host of the event. I was brought up to say thank you to the person doing the organising. What a wonderful opportunity to find out if there are going to be similar events in the future.  Maybe you are good at organising these types of events and can offer your services next time. Unless you ask, you will never know.

They say that if you don’t know where you are going, then any road will get you there.  Be sure of your objectives and reasons for going.

Where to Find the Events
You will be pleased to know that you don’t need to be an expert networker to find out where and when the events are going to be held. In Western Australia it is advisable to add your name to the West Australian Information Network (WAIN) list serv, and ALIA West. You can subscribe to WAIN by sending an email message to listproc@info.curtin.edu.au with the following in the body of the message
SUBSCRIBE WAIN firstname last name

Biblia and Incite also list some of the forthcoming events. ALIA also have a large number of groups that you can join if you have a special interest or are working in a special field or part of the industry, go to http://alia.org.au.  As with all things list serv, it is wise to ask a couple of questions when you first join as you do not get retrospective messages emailed to you, just those that have been posted since you joined.

We would also recommend joining the Records Management Association of Australasia http://rmaa.com.au list serv. This can be done from the RMAA web site, and has the added advantage that you can decide to have messages posted in a digest form once a day, rather than as individual messages, if that is your preference. For those of you interested in archives, then join the Australian Society of Archivists at http://www.asa.com.au.

If you are a student, then your lecturers, student bodies and noticeboards are a great way of finding out who’s doing what, where and the subject under discussion.

Of course, whilst we are on the subject of list servs, they are a great place to network in themselves. You can use the various forums to voice your opinion on a whole host of topics, pass on useful information and ask questions of your fellow list serv members. They are a powerful tool – if you use them correctly, and are willing to spend some time reading what people are concerned about. After all, you may be able to offer a solution to someone’s problem.

A Word of Advice on Business Cards
Better understated, than overly garish. Remember that you do want to be remembered for the right reasons. Everything that you say and do should portray you in a professional manner. Would you send your CV on bright pink card? No? I thought not, so why would you give out your personal information on one?

And only give information that you don’t mind the entire world knowing about. If your email address is less than complimentary then consider getting one that is, devil888 or elvisthechicken2003 will not do (and yes both are real). Yahoo is by far one of the best free email services available, so take advantage of its service and create yourself a “professional” address. Similarly, having a web site can be both a good and a bad thing. If your web site is little more than a collection of rather dodgy photographs then I would suggest you leave the information off your business card.

To your success.

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A Thought to Ponder:
“Never mistake motion for action”
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
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