BALTIMORE — The importance of smart networking in career management, always important to support personal brand management, is now a critical must-do.
Continued government-driven efforts to reform America’s healthcare delivery system will promote “shrinkage” and, conversely, more competition for each leadership position. Today it is not uncommon for recruiters to receive 40 to 50, sometimes many more, resume submissions for each executive search. Most are from qualified candidates, which means the odds against success in a job search can be a little depressing if you think about the size of the job pool. Over the next five to seven years the odds will not get any better. In fact, they will probably get worse.
To manage your career, executives must build a solid network of relevant contacts, and they must manage that list with great care. Developing a contact list based solely on number of contacts is a royal waste of time. When you connect with someone, this simple rule should apply: can we add value to each other’s network? It’s nice if you know them, but even industry professionals you do not know can contribute. Be smart and consistently apply the value rule.
You should build a robust network but that said having 200 or 500 relevant contacts is unto itself no guarantee of success. You build value by sharing content and integrating with LinkedIn and your Facebook professional page. In other words, you have to work at it, constantly.
You must also have a robust personal database in addition to the lists you accrue on LinkedIn or other sites. To help you manage those contacts, at a minimum, this database should allow you to:
- Store contact information, including office and cell phone numbers, emails, LinkedIn profile URLs, and a photo. Once you zoom past 100 names in your network, having a photo can be especially helpful in making the connection more personal.
- Fields for saving birthdays, anniversaries, and other personal information contacts share or you collect through other sources such as LinkedIn or Facebook, for example. Having annual reminders is essential.
- The ability to save emails and notes on a contact’s record allows you to stay current with your contacts. This includes links to articles they may have shared, or phone calls. Hint, if, after two years there is no record of interaction, consider eliminating that person from your contact list. Being able to quickly review all of your interactions with a contact can be useful and make a powerful impact.
- The database must be easy to back up. Apple has several endorsed excellent database applications that meet these criteria. Most are a snap to back up using Apple’s innovative Time Machine program. One of my early favorites, before I abandoned the world of poor individual customer support that is the hallmark of Microsoft, was their Outlook version with a feature called Business Contacts Manager (BCM). It has a more robust capacity than their original Outlook offering but it has, or did have, a convoluted backup process.
Another networking tool is Paperless Post, an elegant on-line electronic card platform. Contacts who share their birthdays with me, through Facebook or LinkedIn, and many do, receive birthday, holiday and anniversary cards from me. These are classy and always elicit a favorable response. Some people ask, ‘Why go to the trouble?’ My position is that if I have their information send a card. It will strengthen the contact.
Caring and feeding your database is not an optional endeavor for effective career management. Not now, especially not in the future.
Next: How to Build Value With Your Network