December 02, 2010, 2:48 PM — The holiday season is an ideal time for re-connecting, making new contacts and strengthening relationships. Networking is, in fact, the best job search method: It generates more than 80% of new hires.
Constantly nurturing existing relationships and strategically developing new contacts can put you on the inside track to plum job leads, whether you are an active candidate or just want to keep up with the market.
Remember that all jobs are temporary, but your network is lifetime career insurance. Contacts provide referrals, recommendations and invitations. Therefore you need to make time everyday to "network purposefully," as I say. The right contacts are relationships with hiring decision makers and good connectors.
So in the spirit of this holiday season, here are the 12 critical steps you should take to start (or re-start) building your career nest egg. Realize that many of the steps may require more than 24 hours' worth of work; however, each is a major milestone toward establishing a network of enduring value.
On the first day... Define your networking strategy. Focus on individuals and activities related directly to achieving personal and professional goals. Compile list of existing contacts and research targeted new contacts among thought leaders, authors, friends of friends, industry consultants and speakers.
On the second day... Organize contacts into action groups: meet in person one-on-one, via telephone call, individual e-mails, print notes or by sharing a link or article; send a gift; connect two contacts; invite to a live event; recommend a virtual event or group discussion; or submit a proposal for a presentation.
On the third day... Select and prioritize in-person and virtual communities. Identify a few groups or organizations to focus your efforts because it's better to be an active participant or leader in a few groups and build strong relationships. So get involved: schedule virtual networking into your daily calendar; join LinkedIn groups in your industry, for your specialty or new field you want to enter; and participate in discussions among trade association members and within other affinity groups.
On the fourth day... Create a networking card. Show name, e-mail address and preferred phone. Put a descriptive, memorable headline on the front. Bullet your core competencies on back. Add signature block to your personal e-mail. Be sure to include name, headline, phone and e-mail.