Are You Leveraging Your Business Network?

Just yesterday I received an email from a colleague telling me her husband had been laid off from yet another corporate job. Will the downsizing ever stop? I doubt it. Most large corporations focus purely on the bottom line and employees are the biggest expense.

And sadly, many workers become lax at maintaining their professional network when they've worked with a company a while. With mass layoff announcements screaming at us every day in the news, having a dead or outdated business network can extend the time it takes to find a new position. And what about new grads? Without a business network, what is their hope of finding that prized position?

It's common knowledge that many jobs are filled through word of mouth networking, yet most job seekers begin their hunt without a strong business network. Having a dead, outdated or non-existent business network can extend the time it takes to find a job. And if you're in business for yourself, your business network is your key to success.

Whether you're shy or outgoing, business networking must be part of your marketing arsenal. You'll be successful if you are prepared. Here are a few keys to success.

- Before you go to a networking meeting, be prepared with a goal. Who do you want to meet? Why are you there? Have a conversation icebreaker ready to get to know the right people.

- At a networking lunch, don't reserve every seat and act like a grump if someone unfamiliar wants to sit at your table. Welcome the opportunity that a stranger presents. They may be your next customer.

- Treat referrals like gold. Contact the referral within a day, if possible. Let the referrer know how things went.

- Online, your email creates the first impression just like your physical presence does at face-to-face meetings. Be the business professional that you are.

Connections are crucial for business success, but it's not so much who you know as who knows you. How did you find your last business connection? You probably asked a few friends who they used. That's how business networking works. Make sure your network is alive and well.

Denise O'Berry is a small business expert and author of 101 Nuggets to Power Up Your Schmooze-Ability. Find out more at http://www.deniseoberry.com/101tips/

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