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Successful networking involves more than just making contacts. It depends on developing and following a strategic networking plan to fit your career and personal goals. There is no one-size-fits-all process. Certainly there are standard tools, techniques, and tips you can—and should—apply. But in the end, your strategic networking plan will be as unique as you are and as specific to your goals as possible.

As you progress through the exercises and discussion points in this book, you will have the opportunity to define clearly your networking style—and develop your one-of-a-kind strategic networking plan.

Your customized plan will be designed to maximize your professional and personal strengths while minimizing your weaknesses. Networking style considerations include:

Goals— Your reasons for enhancing your networking skills

Contacts— Your access to the “right” people at the right time

Personal style— Your comfort level and listening skills and the impression you make

Tools and techniques— Your experience and comfort level with publicity, public speaking, e-mail, and other networking tools

Resources— Your ability to devote time, energy, and financial resources to networking and career development

Etiquette and netiquette— Your know-how and savvy can make, or break, the deal

Challenges— Your personal and professional problem areas

Commitment— Your desire to succeed and willingness to follow through

Begin by taking the self-assessment on the next two pages to help you clarify your networking strengths and weaknesses, needs and goals.

Assessing Your Networking Skills

For each of the following statements below, check ( ) the response that you think best fits. Be realistic as you look at your strengths and weaknesses. Most likely you will find you already have some networking skills and will discover other areas that need to be explored or fine-tuned.

Identifying Focus and Setting Goals Yes No Don’t Know
1) I have a clear vision of my career goals.

2) I have created a strategic networking plan to help me achieve my career goals.

3) I am willing to invest the time, energy, and financial resources necessary to achieve my networking and career goals.

Relationship-building Skills
4) I have established relationships with key influencers who can help me achieve my career goals.

5) I have compiled a target list of influencers, mentors, colleagues, and supporters with whom I want to build mutually beneficial networking and business relationships.

6) I am actively involved in professional organizations and/or alumni associations that can help advance my career goals.

People Skills
7) I am an introvert. I find it difficult to introduce myself to strangers and make small talk at social events.

8) I am an extrovert. I can talk to anyone, anywhere, about anything. Public speaking is a pleasure for me.

Networking Tools & Techniques Yes No Don’t Know
9) I would be comfortable using publicity to enhance my business profile and advance my career.

10) I am an expert on at least one subject and would enjoy giving speeches on that topic.

11) I have access to e-mail and the Internet and am comfortable using them.

12) I am mindful of the rules of social, business, and e-mail etiquette, or netiquette.

Networking Challenges
13) I am a student or recent grad with no professional contacts.

14) I am attempting to switch careers, start a business, or get my career back on track following a career setback.

15) I am a top-level executive searching for a hard-to-find, high-paying position.

Do not worry about how many yes or no answers you gave. As you proceed through this book, each topic will be detailed with examples and exercises to help you develop and implement the strategic networking plan that is right for you. Use your self-assessment to determine which networking skills you need to focus on most.

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