The Mid-Career GPS Podcast

229: Building a Networking Strategy for Career Growth

March 05, 2024 John Neral Season 4
The Mid-Career GPS Podcast
229: Building a Networking Strategy for Career Growth
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever feel like networking is a chore? It's understandable that many mid-career professionals forget about networking as they get wrapped up in their jobs and lives. It's a common circumstance and it's okay if you haven't spent a lot of time networking or on LinkedIn. I'm going to help you with that. 

Every professional needs a valuable network of people who are there for them and willing to help them with whatever professional or career challenge they face. I’m going to expand on that concept today because, for many mid-career professionals, networking gets pushed aside when the day-to-day challenges of your job take over and you lose track of time networking. 

In this episode, I’m going to teach you some simple and easy-to-do strategies to up your networking game that will get you making more authentic connections without a lot of time, effort, energy, and stress. 



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John Neral:

Every professional needs a valuable network of people who are there for them and willing to help them with whatever professional or career challenge they face. My conversation last week, episode 228, with Matthew Rolnick Matthew shared some easy ways to foster your network, especially when you haven't connected with people in a while. I'm going to expand on that concept today because for many mid-career professionals, networking gets pushed aside when the day-to-day challenges of your job takeover and you lose track of time networking. It is a common problem and challenge for practically every mid-career professional. So here's the thing this is normal. It happens to all of us during our careers, but the good thing is all is not lost. In this episode, I'm going to teach you some simple and easy to do strategies to up your networking game that will get you making more authentic connections without spending a lot of time, effort, energy and stress. Let's get started.

John Neral:

Hello, my friends, this is the Mid-Career GPS Podcast. I'm your host, John Neral, I help mid-career professionals find a job they love, or love the job they have, using my proven four-step formula. One of the things I am most proud about working with my clients is that I help them build a networking strategy that is doable, manageable and, most importantly, authentic for them. You see, I want this networking strategy that we build while they're trying to find a new job is something that they can continue far after they find that job and continue to build their professional network. It's why this networking strategy helps them now and throughout their careers. So networking is all about relationship building and if you've been listening to me for a while, you know I repeatedly say that one of the best ways you can show up with networking is to give first and ask later. Do you want to show up from this place of value and service? When you're networking, who can you connect them to? It's one of the great things I loved about my conversation with Matthew Roelnik in the last episode was he talked about being a super connector and how you can leverage your network to just make more introductions to people.

John Neral:

But a lot of times when I start working with mid-career professionals on finding that job they're going to love, they will often tell me some limiting beliefs that they have about networking. It'll sound like this I'm not good at it. I don't spend a lot of time networking. I don't have a big enough network to really share with people. I'm not sure where I can add any value to the conversation. One of the things we have to do is get clarity around how they want to network. Do they want a network on LinkedIn? Do they want to network at local networking events or maybe through professional organizations that they're a part of? Or are they comfortable being in that big room and networking with hundreds of people and seeing how many people they can get to know?

John Neral:

Remember that networking isn't about asking for something initially. I don't want to overlook the fact that, yes, there will come a time when you're networking that you will ask for something, but when you can give first, you make that irresistible value. You are giving so high but they can't refuse it. So to think about that what's your brand? When you think about your professional brand, who you are, what you do, who you help make that part of how you authentically connect with someone. So for me, as an executive and career transition coach, I am always looking to connect with people who are pretty much unhappy in their jobs. They lack fulfillment, they want greater career satisfaction and I know that I can help them. So anytime somebody says to me, john, who can I connect you to? Those are my people. Additionally, if people say to me, john. Who can I connect you to? I may have an ask, like I do now, about trying to do more public speaking and workshop events. Maybe it's a keynote, maybe it's a workshop at a conference, but something that will get me in front of more people so I can help spread my message.

John Neral:

But I also build my network through this podcast. I take great pride in the fact that every single guest that I have come onto this podcast is all of a sudden a quick connection for me, and it's a valuable connection, because the only thing I want from them is to be an incredible guest for you, to share their expertise and to share their career transition story so you can get motivated and inspired as you build your mid-career GPS. What you are not privy to is that there is a half hour conversation before we record the episode and then, after we're done recording the episode, we have a conversation as well, and I ask them who else can I connect you to? And nine times out of 10, my guests will then say to me John, you've done so much, who can I connect you to? That is one way I get to build my network and I'm very grateful for it, but I don't look at a guest as a one and done. I look at them as someone who is now a part of my network for the long haul and that we're gonna continue to nurture and build these relationships. So when another podcasting host says to me, hey, john, I'm looking for a guest that has this expertise, I can look at my podcast library of now 230 episodes almost and go, oh yeah, you should talk to so and so. So that's one way I get to leverage my network in a very authentic way, and I've had to build this skill. This was something I wasn't very comfortable doing, especially seven years ago when I started my coaching practice full-time.

John Neral:

Not everyone is a natural networker and that is okay. If you're beating yourself up right now, thinking, oh, I could never do that, I don't have great networking skills, stop. I want you to find a way for you to network that feels most genuine and authentic to you. Think about your individual strengths. Are you a great listener? Do you ask amazing questions? Do you have somebody in your network that you would love to connect them to? The more you can leverage those strengths when you're networking, the easier it is to be One of my friends that I met pretty early on in my career gave me some of the best advice when it came to networking.

John Neral:

He said never talk about yourself. Just keep asking questions about other people, because they'll want to keep talking, because they will love talking about themselves. I laughed and thought it was a little funny at first. Turns out to be really true the more you ask people questions about themselves, the more they will answer. That's a good thing. Then there's going to come a point in time when it will shift. Now the focus will be on you. When you have a clear ask, your networking is extremely clean. I want to emphasize that the cleaner you are when you network by having a particular ask, the easier it is for someone to decide how they can help you.

John Neral:

But here's the biggest misconception I see when it comes to networking. Now that you're listening to the Mid-Career GPS podcast, are you subscribed to the Mid-Career GPS newsletter? This is my twice weekly newsletter to help you get the career clarity you need to find that new job or level up your leadership as you navigate toward whatever is next for you and your career. Be the first to hear about upcoming webinars and events, along with other things to help you build your Mid-Career GPS. It's a free newsletter and you can join by visiting my website at https://johnneral. com, check the show notes or my LinkedIn. Now back to the episode.

John Neral:

The biggest misconception I see when networking is that people think they have to have this huge and expansive network. You don't. I would far rather have a network that is filled with quality connections than a million followers. Quality over quantity reigns true here. So often, especially for mid-career job seekers. You may be thinking that you need to have this huge network of people in as many contacts as possible, and you don't. The truth is, if you were to do a networking audit and look at the people on your LinkedIn or the people in your email address inbox, the likelihood is that it is a relatively small percentage probably no more than five or 10% at the most of people whom you could specifically reach out in contact and they would go to bat for you in a second because they know you, they trust you, they like you. So what I want to offer you here is spend time deepening those existing connections instead of focusing solely on how many people can I constantly bring into my network from this company, or how many people can I bring into my network that are doing this particular line of work.

John Neral:

You and I both know that it takes time to build relationships, and professional relationships admittedly take a little longer. I will talk to people who will think, oh my gosh, if I just find the right connection, they're gonna land me a job. Yeah, but they're not gonna land you that job or give you that connection. The likelihood of them doing it within the first 24 hours of your meeting probably not gonna happen. Yeah, there are times when we connect with somebody right off the bat and we think, oh, that's great, I feel like I've known you my entire life. That's a rarity. It takes time to nurture and build those relationships, and so that means you have to be strategic.

John Neral:

You must be intentional when building these relationships, and so to do that, I want you to identify the people you wanna have in your network and approach those individuals who align with your career goals. So, for example, if you are using LinkedIn to do this, you may be searching based on somebody's title, somebody's industry, the company where they have worked or are currently working, and what's your commonality. So I feel it's important for me to share this with you again, because I've shared previously on episodes about how I will block people when I feel like they're being spammy or scammy, and you must protect your network in that regard. So don't send a connection request to somebody that says, hey, you keep popping up in my profile, I'd like to connect, or you don't send a note at all.

John Neral:

There needs to be a reason, and one of the best reasons that will take somebody's defenses down is if you can share a relationship about a common connection. So, for example and I'll use Matthew as an example, since he was my last guest he posted our episode on LinkedIn and I'll go back and I will take a look at who liked it and I'll go back and I may connect with some of those people and I may write to them and say, hey, thank you so much for liking Matthew Roelnik's post about appearing on the mid-career GPS podcast. I really enjoyed talking to him because I'd like to connect with you and be a valuable connection. That way, then people know where that's coming from. It always chuckles me that's a word I don't use a whole lot, right, but it does chuckle me and make me laugh a little bit. I have a really, really good friend of mine who will show me his LinkedIn and be like I don't know this person, why are they reaching out to me? And I'll laugh and I'll be like, yeah, why would you connect with them?

John Neral:

You have to give people a reason as to why you wanna connect and, more importantly, network with them. Don't connect and drop the ball. Connect and keep the conversation going. So here's another tip for you If somebody sends you a personal message hey, I know we share this common connection and you may not know them at all, you may think, oh, I can't really respond to it, but I wanna connect with them they seem like a good connection, except the connection request and reply back and say, hey, that's great to hear how well you know Matthew. We really haven't had a chance to connect a whole lot, but your message makes me wanna reach out to him even more. You have to find that commonality.

John Neral:

But I'd be remiss if I don't conclude this episode with talking a little bit about overcoming your networking anxiety. Look, we all have it. We all get nervous, we fear that someone is going to reject us and on some level I will offer you that it may even bring up past dating trauma where you walk up to somebody and they just go no, and they walk away. Or you exchange business information but they never connect with you on LinkedIn or they never email. It is okay to be nervous when connecting at a professional event or on a professional level. So the one of the ways I help my clients do this in building their networking strategy. It will set a very tangible goal for what networking success looks like, and this varies based on the client and their industry and their particular career transition goals.

John Neral:

But what I wanna offer you here is, over this next week, what would be a great networking goal for you. Is it about signing up for an in-person or virtual networking event? Is it reaching out to somebody on LinkedIn and making a connection and having them accept? Is it about reaching out to someone in your existing network whom you're already connected to and saying, hey, I have a meaning to reach out to you and we just haven't had a lot of chance to connect, but I would love to just schedule a 15 or 20 minute virtual coffee with you and learn more about you and how I can help you in some way. Who can I connect you? To Set a goal for yourself about what this looks like, and it could be as simple as I'm going to send one connection request this week and they're going to accept, or I will send as many connection requests as I need until one person accepts.

John Neral:

Build a networking plan that you can do and is manageable for you. That you will do it. That's the key thing here. You must be able to do this in a way that feels authentic and genuine for you, because if you don't build this networking strategy that ultimately leads to you building these lasting professional relationships, you will see your professional network not just be stagnant, but it will start to dissipate, and that is something we don't want to happen. All right, so your goal for this episode is to create one thing that you're going to commit to doing over the next seven days to help you build your network. Whether it be signing up for an event, connecting with somebody on LinkedIn, scheduling a virtual coffee, whatever it is, but let that be a foundational step for how you build your network.

John Neral:

All right, if we are not connected on LinkedIn, I would be honored to be a part of your network and vice versa. Please send me a connection request. Tell me you've been listening to the Mid Career GPS podcast. That would be incredible. Thank you so very, very much.

John Neral:

Build that networking strategy and until next time, remember this you will build your Mid Career GPS one mile or one step at a time, and how you show up matters. Make it a great rest of your day. Thank you for listening to the Mid Career GPS podcast. Make sure to follow on your favorite listening platform and, if you have a moment, I'd love to hear your comments on Apple Podcast. Visit johnnarrowcom for more information about how I can help you build your Mid Career GPS or how I can help you in your future, and I'll see you next time. Will you build your Mid Career GPS, or how I can help you in your organization with your next workshop or public speaking event? Don't forget to connect with me on LinkedIn and follow me on social at John Darrell Coaching. I look forward to being back with you next week. Until then, take care and remember how we show up matters. Tentarcom.

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