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  • Diana Schneidman

What to do when your network is weak

I’ve been meeting people who feel doomed.

Specifically, they are searching for freelance and consulting work, full-time corporate-type jobs or sales leads and they don’t currently have a large and strong network in place.

They regret this and blame themselves for this sad situation.

To be more accurate, they don’t merely recognize this flaw in their career development. They berate themselves for missing the boat.

And when they finally get work, they resolve to never let this happen again. They will continue networking just as intently as they have been since first mending their ways.

The next time they need an assignment, a job or a customer, their pipeline will be full, they vow.

In their desire to acknowledge how they brought their problem on themselves through inaction and sloth, they overlook a key fact: They were too busy with current job demands to network aggressively.

Today most corporate jobs, even the lower paying ones, are highly demanding. Employees have not consistently engaged in networking because of these demands, not because they are unaware of networking’s importance.

Perhaps they considered joining professional and community organizations but knew they could not maintain the effort to derive sufficient benefits from the groups.

Perhaps they knew their employers would not reimburse membership nor dinners. That they didn’t rate compared to higher level employees for the professional perks of employment.

That if they themselves paid for luncheons in advance, at the last minute it could be difficult to get away if they were working on a rush assignment.

And that it could even be difficult to get away from the office in time for an evening meeting.

Let’s acknowledge the truth: It’s extremely difficult to grow a strong network when you are employed full time.

Even after the searing experience of unemployment, it’s even harder when you start a new job or receive your initial, demanding freelance or consulting assignments.

I see two solutions to this dilemma. The first is to be realistic. We only have so much energy and so much time. We can’t always build our networks conscientiously in terms of both numbers and depth of relationships. That’s how it is. Let’s acknowledge this and let ourselves off the hook for the impossible.

The second solution is to develop current prospecting techniques that don’t require extensive past networking to be effective.

That’s the great thing about telephoning. Done right—calling the people we can be most helpful to in a professional manner—gets the job done. It maximizes attention to our special talents and minimizes the importance of what we lack—deep long-term relationships.

So let’s get to it!

Originally posted 10-12-09

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