4 Critical Strength Tests For Your Professional Network

by admin

One day, while working on the web, my Internet connection failed.

For most people this would mean not being able to do much. I’m a web producer for a TV show. This meant I couldn’t do anything.

I hopped on the phone with my Tech Support Guy and he walked me through a series of tests. The Internet was working for the rest of the office, so that wasn’t the problem. My LAN cable was properly connected – no problem there. The Tech Support Guy had me check my computer settings, and that’s where we found the issue.

When your computer connects to a website, it seems like magic, but in reality it takes a bunch of systems working at the same time, correctly, to send an information signal to your screen.

In the same way, when you land a great job in the music, television, or film business it looks like luck at first, but take a closer look and you’ll see that your professional network had to come through for you every step of the way.

If you’re stuck in a rut, and are not receiving the cool opportunities you know you deserve, you have a networking problem, just like I did with my computer.

Here, let me be your Career Support Guy and walk you through four simple tests you can use to figure out where you have a weak link in your networking.

Test #1. Who Will Take Your Phone Calls?

Don’t be fooled by your Facebook friends and Twitter followers – who will pick up the phone when you call? That’s your real social network.

I learned this the hard way. I’m blog buddies and Twitter pals with a guy named “J”. He also works at the intersection of television and the web. Though I’ve never spoken to him, I felt like we were friends. And why wouldn’t I? We’ve commented on each others posts, and retweeted each others tweets.

I had a hot idea for a podcast and asked “J” to hop on the phone with me to see if he would be interested in co-hosting the show.

“J” couldn’t find time in his schedule that week to talk to me, so I followed up next week. That turned out to be a busy time for him too, so I tried a few random calls spread out over the next couple of weeks, whenever the idea hit me again.

Finally, I gave up. I realized that no matter how many times our avatars appear in each others social web streams, “J” and I are not in each other’s real networks. I have as much of a chance pitching an idea to “J” as a guy he just met at a networking event.

Get what I’m saying? You will frustrate yourself if you expect that the 500 strangers that have connected with you on LinkedIn will have any real impact on your career.

It sounds like old school advice in this new world of social media, but you still have to connect with people deep enough to get them to at least take your call.

So, that’s your first test. How many people will talk to you in the real world? That’s the size of your true professional network. Start from there.

Test #2. Who Will Spread The Good Word About You?

Most people in your network will connect with you and leave it at that. A smaller number will become your advocates.

When it comes up that someone needs a rock star freelancer, the advocates in your network will mention your name.

When gossip spreads at work that your team is sinking a project, your advocate will make sure people know you had nothing to do with the mess.

Your advocate refers you when you’re up for a job at the company they work for. And your advocate recommends you when promotions are coming around.

See how important it is to have active supporters in your network?

Some people will champion you just because they’re nice like that. They love to help others and are generous with their praise. However, most people will only co-sign you if they are blown away by how skillful, interesting, or cool you are.

That’s why designing a strong personal brand is so key. Being a star in your field will mean never having a problem getting people to spread the good word about you.

Test #3. Who Will Bring You A Big Break?

An even smaller number of people in your network will have the willingness or ability to bring you a perfect opportunity.

These aren’t just the people who will give you the time of day, or passively co-sign you, like most of your professional connections. No. I’m talking about the few who are actively trying to help you succeed in this rough and rocky industry.

You probably call them friends, and for good reason. They don’t just know you, they understand you. They don’t just trust you, they have faith in you. And they don’t just like you, they love you.

So, let’s make this networking test simple. How many friends do you have in this industry?

It’s bad advice to shun making friends in our business. And it’s worst to see everyone as a friend.

I count as a friend anyone who helps me reach my dreams as if they were pursuing their own. Figure out who you consider a friend, and get more of them.

Test #4. Who Wants To Work With You?

Let’s go back to my story about “J”.

In one conversation I was hoping to move him from social media co-hort to my project partner. No wonder he didn’t want to listen to my pitch! “J” was being a smart professional, not an unapproachable insider.

The networking mistake that I see most often is the one I made – asking for too much, too soon.

If you’re just beginning your career journey, it’s likely that no one is picking you for their team yet. And those that do, only call because you’ll work for free.

So tt’s OK if, for now you answer this last networking question with “no one”. The important thing is to know what you’re aiming for.

Not more Twitter followers. Not more invitations to industry parties. Not even more testimonials to add to your portfolio.

The singular goal of your networking is to get better and better job offers!

If you’re not getting those offers, test out each circle of your network. And if something is wrong, you’ll know exactly what to fix.