A recent Forbes post explored how much networking it really takes to land a job (spoiler alert: there is no guarantee!). Because networking deals with person-to-person interactions, there will always be some uncertainty. If you do X type of outreach, will networking will pay off? We can’t say with 100% certainty.
However, while networking may not be repeatable like a mathematical formula, it is a numbers game. You have to network regularly and substantially to see results, and you have to measure your networking efforts so you can see what works and what doesn’t. You can’t just reach out haphazardly and hope that something happens. You need to note who, when, and how you interact with people and follow what transpires to know will networking pay off. Here are five steps to measure your networking efforts:
Crate a spreadsheet with the specific people whose interactions you want to track
We all keep our contacts in various places – our phone, our email address book, our social media accounts, even business cards in a pile we mean to input later! Some of these contacts are for social purposes, so you don’t need to track these efforts. Some of these contacts may not be priorities for the career goal you’re focused. For your spreadsheet, include only the contacts where you are trying to move the relationship to a specific stage – e.g., you want to have an information interview with a person, you want to get a referral from another, you want to pitch a freelance project or some other collaboration. You want to have a dedicated spreadsheet with your highest priority networking targets so you can answer will networking pay off with the contacts that matter.
Choose the criteria you will use to measure these interactions
Track how you know the person (if you don’t know the person but read about them, you want to remember what article or publication). Track a minimum of two dates: 1) when you first approached them; and 2) also your latest interaction. This way, you have a sense for how long you have been focusing on this relationship. Track the action (e.g., voicemail, emailed, second email, etc.) and whatever follow up you need to do (e.g., if your last interaction was a meeting and you promised to follow up with a resume, then make a note here that you need to send a resume and by WHEN). Finally, you may want to create a category column to flag if the person is a potential job lead, information source, personal advisor, or whatever makes sense for what your goals are. You need specific data points for each of your contacts to answer will networking pay off for the results that matter to you.
Look at how long your outreach efforts have been going on
Tracking dates is important because while you can’t rush a relationship, you do want to see progress over time. If your actions consist of multiple calls and emails, all initiated by you, and it has been several months that you have been trying to reach the person, you know you need to change your approach. This might mean dropping back for a while, substituting another contact altogether, or trying a different type of outreach. Since we don’t have that 100% certainty on the answer to “Will networking pay off?” we have to try different things and be willing to switch this up over time.
Compare types of outreach to see if a particular approach works best
Tracking actions is important because you want to see what types of outreach work for you. Maybe your population is best reached by phone. Maybe you have a lot of distant connections but they all know each other or have something in common and it might make more sense to try and set up a group get-together. If your relationship is a mix of business and personal, a weekend brunch or dinner party might be totally appropriate and productive.
Decide who to prioritize and how
As you try different things, you may find that you enjoy some types of outreach over others – and some people more than others too. Now that you have a better sense of what you like doing and who you like interacting with, you can make better informed decisions about where to take your networking from here. Don’t feel like you have to do the same things over and over again, especially if you’re not getting results or if your goals change. If you decide to change careers, your network may be dramatically different than before (or not).