N is for… Networking

What is Networking?

Basically networking is meeting new people.

Networking is the interaction with others for the purpose of exchanging information, and developing professional or social contacts.

Nothing so scary about that!

Why is Networking important?

Most professionals will be required to do some business development and attract and retain clients or customers. Your employer (or prospective employer) wants to know that you are making the business money. Networking is one of the ways that this can be done.

Attending (and excelling at) networking events can be a great way to meet people and connect. However, you also need to be someone that follows through on the connections made and meets the right people with whom you will have a beneficial relationship – for example: who will give work or make referrals. This ability to do this is the skill.

How can you excel at making connections by networking?

Some people just have that natural personality that means they are like a fish to water at networking events – they are fun and likeable so people naturally follow up with them because they enjoyed their company and want to get to know them better.

However, for the rest of us who don’t naturally have that flow (myself included) we should not despair – there are plenty of opportunities for us to be helpful, likeable and master the skill of networking.

We must start by scrapping the old-school mentality of networking, sales pitches and business cards. More and more networking events are embracing technology and  promoting a ‘generosity’  approach.

Excelling at networking in part comes down to preparation such as knowing who is attending the event and understanding what you can give or offer them, how to can provide value and how you can make a genuine connection.

Skill Development Plan

Your Skill Development Plan should be simple – prepare well and network as much as you can.

Regular readers will know that I have a Filofax dedicated to Networking. There is also a Networking Notebook that forms part of the Printed Portal Organisational Notebooks Range which will help you prepare for networking events.  Additionally, don’t forget to check out our Career Development Prompt series for more networking goodies.

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Career Dev Prompt #4: Present a Presentation

The only real way to develop your presenting skills is to practice. So let’s book in a presentation into your 2014 calendar.

Does your employer do internal training sessions or regular updates as part of their training programme? If so, why not volunteer to give a presentation to your colleagues on a relevant topic? Quite frequently trainers are looking for internal presenters to plug the gaps between the external / headline speakers. 

Personally I hate giving presentations, but if you are well prepared and have researched your topic you will have no problem. 

Subscribers of our Career Development Prompts Premium Plan (which is only £30 for a 2013/14 subscription) will be able to download our Presentations Checklist Printable to help them prepare.

M is for… Meeting Management

Meetings are a large part of corporate life, there may be some days where you feel your entire day is made up of meetings. For everyone’s benefit meetings should be productive and effective.

The ability to run and manage meetings is a skill. Properly run meetings can save time, increase motivation, productivity, and solve problems. However, a badly run meeting can do the exact opposite. 

What makes a good meeting?

A good meeting has a purpose, a set agenda, only has the necessary attendees, and is run efficiently. As an employee you want to be able to show that you can run efficient meetings and obtain the necessary outcomes.

Well run meetings can save time and money by getting everyone in one room and getting the job done – but this will also need you to call on your other skills such as presenting, problem-solving and decision making.

The easiest way to demonstrate and develop this skill is to practice. Run meetings, set and control the agenda, take the weight and responsibility off your boss and you will soon be showing that you are a capable individual.

5 Steps to help you get everything done before you leave the office

1. GET STARTED NOW (and keep your head down).

It is easy at Christmas time to get caught up in the christmas spirit and the gossip at the water cooler / kitchen / coffee machine. Doing more work now and maintaining the momentum will mean that you can rest easy and relax over the Christmas Period.

2. PRIORITISE (and agree with clients what can wait until the new year)

If you write a master to do list of everything that needs done and work out a priority ranking for them. Start will all the things you need to get done, followed by those that would be nice extras.

3. START USING YOUR 2014 DIARY

If you haven’t already bought your 2014 diary or you haven’t started thinking into the next year do it now. Stop booking in things in December and start making appointments in the new year (advise your secretary of the same).

4. KEEP TRACK OF OUT OF OFFICES

Keep track of when your key client, customers and colleagues are out of the office and plan your work accordingly. Need to get a document signed off? make sure you get it done while you still can. If you know you need input from someone who is on holiday and you won’t be able to progress a particular to-do put it on hold and work on something else.

5. HAVE A CUT OFF POINT (and say no!)

Have a cut off point for accepting new work or checking and dealing with letters and email etc. Even take it the extra step and put your out of office on early.

Career Dev Prompt #3: Set up a Coffee Date

Networking and keeping in touch with clients, contacts, colleagues and customers can be essential in many lines of work. Coffee dates can be a great way to maintaining contact and can be a great way to follow-up initial contact at a networking event.

If they are local it is slightly easier to find a mutually convenient location and if they are further afield you should try and set up a virtual coffee date instead.

How often you should touch base depends on the contact and how often face to face contact is necessary  – but unless business requires more frequent meet-ups every six months or yearly coffee dates are usually sufficient provided contact is maintained through electronic means.

I often find that a lot of time can pass between the initial suggestion of a coffee date and the actual coffee date. This can be frustrating so I try to manage my coffee dates using my planner and have a special printable included in the planner section of my career planner. This printable is available to premium content subscribers as part of this week’s prompt.

If you are struggling to synchronise diaries sometimes a Virtual Coffee Date can be just as beneficial as the real thing.

Set up a Virtual Coffee Date Instead

I find that a lot of my contacts are in London and I don’t get to visit London often enough to set up coffee dates (or drinks or lunch) with everyone I would like to keep in contact with. The Solution? I sometimes set up Virtual Coffee Dates instead. This is simply where I arrange a time for a chat with a contact on the phone/skype but we arrange a mutually convient time and each of us will have a fresh cup of coffee (usually from my local coffee shop).

While this won’t work for all contacts and admittedly face to face contact is better a virtual coffee date can keep the connection fresh without waiting until that moment when your diaries match 8 months down the line.

The other benefits are of course that there is no travel time for a virtual coffee date and 20 minutes or less of phone networking can be a better use of your time that other procrastinating activities.

PROMPT: REVIEW YOUR CONTACT LIST AND PICK THREE PEOPLE THAT YOU HAVE BEEN MEANING TO CATCH UP WITH AND GET SOMETHING IN THE DIARY OVER THE NEXT THREE MONTHS

Subscribers of our Career Development Prompts Premium Plan (which is only £30 for a 2013/14 subscription) will be able to download our Coffee Dates Prompt Action Plan.

L is for… leadership

What is Leadership?

The definition of leadership and what it means in the workplace varies between companies and between individuals. The dictionary definition is

“the action of leading a group of people or the ability to do this”

If you haven’t already – read this great article from Forbes – what is leadership?

 

I am not an expert on Leadership and I am not in an obvious ‘leadership role’, but I have come to realise that there is plenty that you can do to help demonstrate and develop leadership skills even if you are not in a leadership role so today I am simply going to share my skill development plan:

  1. Take on a Leadership Role Outside of Work – I currently do volunteering activities and participate in a number of clubcs etc. I used to take on leadership roles when I was at school and university and this year I am taking on a commitee role to help boost skills outside of work.
  2. Do Leadership Training Where I Can – I always try to boost skills by signing up for various training courses when they become available and by reading books. This year I have doing confidence, public speaking, coaching training to name a few in 2014 I hope to find some more leadership orientated courses to sign up to whether they are through work or otherwise.
  3. Write an Action Plan for the Workplace – I have started to write a personalised plan on how to become a leader in my own workplace. This involes learning more about the workplace culture, getting to know people and their style of working, identifying what I can contribute to the workplace.
  4. Volunteer to help – In 2014 I am going to be a ‘yes’ person. I am going to say ‘YES I am here to help’ to every opportunity to take on extra-credit assignments, contrbute to key projects and organise.
  5. Be good at my job (yes it sounds simple – but you are never going to be considered a leader if I can’t do my own job and meet my own deadlines).
  6. Communicate, make friends and make time for people – I previously worked in an open plan office, but in my current workplace everyone has their own office and the secretaries make the tea so it can be hard to mix and get to know people. So I try to make every effort to do so and though this I am also trying to establish relationships with more senior members of staff as well as my peer and colleagues.

 

How to prepare for taking time off at Christmas

This month we will be focussing on Christmas Time Management.

Today we are looking at how to prepare for taking time off for your Christmas Holidays so that you can have a relaxed time away from the office without one eye on your email or blackberry.

Your plan of action will largely depend on whether your office stays open during the holiday period and you need to find cover for the days you have chosen to take OR the office shuts completely. Having worked in both office environments I can safety say that shutting the office over the Chrismas Period is the preferred option.

Whether your office is open or not – you can start preparing now by doing the following things:

  • Simply try and get as much done as possible. Estimate your workload in the coming weeks and plan accordingly.
  • Start informing people in your letters and emails when you will be out of the office or when your office will be closed. If the office is staying open also inform customers and clients of any reduced opening hours.
  • Find out when contacts that you regularly work with are out of the office as well. If they perform a particular function in your work process you may need to plan and adapt.
  • Arrange with customers, clients and suppliers what tasks, meetings, jobs can wait until the new year.

If you are out of the office, but someone will be covering your work (or at least the urgent things) in your absence, leave good quality holiday notes (no one wants to spend Christmas doing your job as well as their own). If this does apply to you, you should also read our article for preparing holiday notes (includes free template).