So, my last post ruffled a few feathers. I'm sorry if I stepped on anyone's toes. I meant for the post to be humorous and tongue-in-cheek, but I also wanted to make a point.
Whether you see the glass as half-empty or half-full can make a big difference in this job market. Some people might see required unpaid days as a loss of income and a slap in the face. I'd see it as free time that would allow me to take a class, go to an industry meeting, or attend a networking event.
I've made some mistakes that people can learn from. If I had to grade myself on networking, I'd maybe give myself a B- or a C+. But I could definitely have done better.
Some people have mastered networking, especially online networking via social media. But for every expert, I see many people - managers, VPs, and people who I'd assume are on the ball - who haven't really capitalized on their position and their contacts.
I see LinkedIn profiles with one and two and three connections. I think many people don't understand LinkedIn and assume it's like Facebook or MySpace for professionals: Build it, and they will come.
One mistake I made in my online and person-to-person networking was that many of the contacts I made or added to LinkedIn were within my comfort zone.
Everyone has a different approach, but here's a few suggestions on making networking count.
Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Think of networking like your 401K account. (Minus, of course, the loss of half your value.) You need to diversify your approach. Sure, it's a smart thing to connect with your co-workers and old friends on LinkedIn, but it's also good to connect outside of that circle.
It's wise to include a mixture of people: people who work for a corporation, entrepreneurs who run a start-up, freelancers, and all points in between. You're building a web of contacts who you can reach out to if your professional life changes, and webs are stronger when they are sturdy and sprawl in different directions.
If you have any contact with a colleague, vendor, or project partner, think about adding them to your network. Look for organic ways to strike up a conversation, and if there's a "ping," ask them to establish a connection to you.
Put the mouse down, and walk away from the computer. With our busy schedules and time restrictions, we've become dependent on mobile and Internet connections and conversations.
But you can't build a solid network by JUST clicking your mouse. You HAVE to get off your ass and into other people's faces.
Laurie Ruettimann writes one of my favorite blogs, Punk Rock HR. Laurie tells it like it is, and she's talked about networking. It's kind of like going to the dentist - no one LOVES it, but it can make you (or your career) healthier and stronger.
It doesn't have to be "just" official industry meetings and conferences - networking can happen organically at parties, in the mall, or as Laurie did, in line waiting for the doors at a Morrissey concert to open.
What are your networking suggestions?