Tips for Building Your Social Network
In a previous post – Six Degrees of Separation – I explained the importance of the concept of the “six degree” network for building your business or career. In this post, I give some tips on how to build that network.
According to the US Department of Labor, 70% of jobs were found through networking, although I personally think the number is much higher. LinkedIn is a great tool to use to build your professional social network, but nothing beats face-to-face networking. This actually has more impact with career growth than electronic social network because the person has a chance to really get to know you. I know from personal experience that I’m more apt to recommend someone that I know personally over someone who I know through LinkedIn (or other social networks) only.
The best way to build your social network is volunteering. This is a way to make more personal contacts who will be able to not only get to know you personally, but it will give you an opportunity to demonstrate what you can do. There are many options for volunteering:
- Volunteer as a coach for your neighborhood’s athletic association.
- Join a volunteering organization such as the Rotary Club, the Lion’s Club, or the Junior League.
- If there is an adult sports league, and you know how to play that sport, join in as a team member.
- If you practice in a particular religion, participate on committees for your religious institution’s fundraising activities.
Another way to build your network is join the Toastmasters Club. This is a club that helps you with your public speaking skills. You get double-duty of meeting new people and building your secondary skills. Pretty slick, huh?
If you’re really ready to step outside of the box, you can build your network by running for public office. Not only will you have the opportunity to help your community, but you can meet a number of new people and get learning experiences that you simply don’t get in school or on the job.
So you may be someone who isn’t naturally a social animal, and you’re more comfortable in front of a computer screen instead of a social event. I’d like to relate to you a story of someone who was more comfortable in front of the screen, and when he stepped out of his comfort zone, he was able to get his dream job through a connection. A friend of mine – I’ll call him Fred – is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. When things are bad, he always helped to keep the spirits up. Anyway, Fred was a veteran who wanted to work for the federal government so badly that he could taste it. The closest thing that he could get was government contractor jobs. It’s not what he really wanted, because being a government contractor is an unstable job, and quite frankly, you’re usually treated as a second-class citizen if you work on-site at a government agency. (For those of you who don’t know how it is, it can be so bad that if a government employee simply doesn’t like the contractor personally, that contractor is marched out the door with no rhyme or reason. I witnessed it!) While it wasn’t Fred’s thing to go to parties or events, he knew that he had to do something, because everything that he did simply wasn’t working. As a way to spend family time with his daughter, he volunteered as a coach for his daughter’s youth soccer league. He also ran for his town’s city council and was elected. In his extra-curricular experiences, he befriended a senior director of a government agency – I’ll call him Jimmy. Jimmy was impressed with Fred’s role as a councilman, and since they were both involved in the same youth soccer league, Jimmy was able to see Fred’s leadership abilities as a coach first-hand. In addition, Jimmy liked Fred. Jimmy just received some requisitions for new GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE positions, and the first person that he thought of was Fred. Guess who finally got his dream job in the government? You got it – it was Fred! If Fred didn’t put himself out there like that, he probably wouldn’t have had a chance to meet Jimmy, and he would still be toiling as a government contractor, worrying about whether he’s going to lose his job or not.
I would love to hear your thoughts, opinions and experiences. Please post a constructive comment.
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