Sir Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” These wise words are as true today as they were in the late 1700s. Similarly, the mantra for being successful in a career should be, “If I have reached this far in my career, it is by standing on the shoulder of my giant network.”
While it’s common knowledge that networks are powerful, most people don’t understand how they work, nor do they know how to create network effects that will propel them to greater success.
Here are some strategies to leverage networks to your benefit:
1. Understand and Develop Effective Networks for the hidden job network
Not all networks are created equal. According to Paul Ormerod in his book “Positive Linking,” there are three common types of social networks: Small-World Network (SWN), Scale-Free Network (SFN), and Random Network (RN)
Small-World Network (SWN): In SWNs, many people are connected to a few contacts each. However, a few people have long distance connections (LDCs), creating an overlapping friends-of-friends structure.
Scale-Free Networks (SFN): In SFNs, many people are connected to a few contacts each and a small number of people (called “hubs”) are connected to many others.
Random Networks (RN): In RNs, these networks have no discernible structure. Hubs and LDCs are not easily visible.
The key people in SWNs are the LDCs. Any strategy to network with LDCs must include broadening the scope of one’s activities to include attending events outside of one’s profession. A great place to find such people is through volunteer organizations.
The key strategy to be employed in SFNs is to identify and target the key connectors or hubs. Such people can be found in trade or industry associations, such as the president of the local Chamber of Commerce. Following people with large numbers of Twitter followers and selected LinkedIn influencers is also a viable strategy for SFNs.
The only way to target random networks is to meet as many people as possible. Since these networks are unstructured, they may involve a lot of work for little reward.
2. Develop a unique, personal brand
Andre Agassi helped popularize Canon’s slogan “Image is Everything” through expensive TV ads. Thankfully, with the advent of social media, you can create a brand at a fraction of the cost of those TV ads.
What does branding have to do with the job search? More than ever before, companies are finding it difficult to tell candidates apart. The most common sales materials available to candidates – resumes and cover letters – are becoming less and less effective in a highly competitive job market. This makes creating a unique, personal brand more important than ever before.
A candidate who neglects a strong presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites does so at their own peril.
I recommend creating an “All Star” profile on LinkedIn. At a minimum, learn how to set up your profile, manage account settings, and add and remove contacts. I also recommend having a professional headshot photo for your profile and thoughtfully filling out the summary, experience and education sections. Additionally, I suggest taking advantage of a very powerful feature on LinkedIn known as the recommendations section. Ask people who are familiar with your work and skills to write recommendations for you. Until your profile is reasonably complete, make sure to turn off settings like “Notify Your Network?”
3. Develop an online profile
Another powerful way to be visible is to create your own blog on topics that you are passionate about. It’s important to provide comments on blogs by target industries and key people of interest to you. Creating your own blog is a great personal branding tool.
If you decide to create one for yourself, link the blog to your profiles on the other social media websites. You should also steadily build an audience using the following approach recommended by blogging guru and author of “New Rules of Marketing and PR,” David Meerman Scott:
Create links to blog as part of email signature
Comment on blogs and include links to your blog
Find out what search terms people use to find you
Update blogs on a regular basis
Use tags to make your blogs easily searchable
– Mahama Nyankamawu
Co-Author, Career 3.0
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