If you think you are not in jeopardy of losing your job, think again. According to a survey by outplacement firm Lee Hecht Harrison, 50% of professionals laid off were caught unaware by the shocking news that they had been downsized.
Luckily, you can learn to become an outstanding networker, and grow your own safety net now, before you need it. Follow the 4 Golden Rules for Networking:
1) “Givers gain.” Help people, and they in turn will want to help you. Focus on others and look for opportunities to help them without worrying what is in it for you. When you focus on yourself and your needs, it can show. It is often easier (and more fun) to zero in on helping other by sharing information and assistance. People remember who helped them when they needed it.
2) Don’t confuse “great” networking with “effective” networking. Everyone knows a “great” networker—they seem to know everyone! However, knowing people and being effective in helping others build their business are not the same thing. Effective networkers deliver business results. It’s not simply knowing a lot of people, it is about being able to build productive links that benefit more than one person, and doing it consistently.
3) Be sincere. Nothing is worse than a person who offers help in order to get something in return. People can sense when they are being used. This is why it is easier to build a network before you need one; then you can be genuine in your willingness to help others without needing anything in return immediately. Even if you need help, make the effort to find out how you can reciprocate; even offering to give assistance or be a resource in the future counts. Also, make the effort to formally say “thank you” to those who helped, and provide ongoing updates or results with an additional thanks.
4) Commit to spending the energy. Networks do not suddenly appear. Networks are built on relationships and shared experiences, so they need attention, time and nurturing to blossom. It is very challenging to network on a schedule or on a deadline, or when in crisis.
Networking before you “need” to do it is a stress-reducer. You are more relaxed and helpful to others, and that comes across in your demeanor and sincerity. Relaxed networking is also more likely to result in unexpected opportunities for advancement, participation, and current business windfalls. It’s just smart business.