Conversations with a number of coaching clients have focused on the need to network and develop a networking strategy. While job seekers may not want to “get out there in a big way,” they generally appreciate the role that reconnecting and meeting new people plays in identifying positions and landing the job they want and deserve. When I stress a minimum of 50% (or somewhere around twenty hours) of their job search time needs to be spent networking, clients fall off their chairs but reluctantly do it. The ones who master the skills tend to reap the greatest benefits.

The more challenging group is the currently employed, especially if they see their job as having little to do with developing a following as opposed to what sales, PR, and journalism require. They’re “too busy,” see meeting and greeting as a “waste of time,” report “have a group of close colleagues” (all who sit within 50 feet of them), and so on and so forth.

It’s only when someone else gets the promotion, the plum assignment, is asked to speak at a conference, or seems to have the inside scoop on every happening in-house and within the industry, does it occur to them that just maybe they don’t have enough people of influence in their immediate sphere.

That’s when a mild form of panic sets in. “Jane, I need to start talking to people!” “I hate chit chat and I’m terrible at it.” “I can’t believe how much time people spend talking about nothing.” I agree with all of it; however, disagree that this is what networking is all about—chit chat, wasting time, and talking about nothing.

When I encourage coaching clients to follow the tenets of BNI (Business Networking International) and other organized networking groups, they quickly hear “givers gain.” That’s right you’re on the phone, in the room, sending the link, to give first and gain later. Many people downplay what they have to share. Those with an expertise often take it for granted or worse undervalue what they know. If they only appreciated and used these gifts, they would be free of chit chat and say nothing talk.

Some people are hesitant to network up the ladder; fearful they will be seen as kissing up. The reality is the air is very thin at the top. Everything is so filtered and sterilized that it’s challenging for senior managers to really know what is going on. As long as you’re not acting as a mole or gossip, and are offering valid and reliable insights and suggestions, there is no reason you should fear speaking with those you work for. It’s easier when you have a relationship built through regular contact.

So what’s the number for those currently working? I say 10%. Yes, 10% of your time should be locating, contacting, and interacting with people inside and outside of your organization. Social networking can play a role, especially Don’t minimize the power of Facebook and for finding and meeting people. When you attend professional or industry events, never skip the networking portion.

In your day-to-day actions, think of reasons to stay in touch. Most people are flattered when you remember their birthday—Facebook and Plaxo alert you to such moments. Found a great link?—share it with ten other people. No one can stay current on all points—help them out. Pick up the phone, even if it’s just to leave a voice mail. Some things are better said than texted. Speaking your thoughts adds more dimension and emotion to your messages than exclamation points and smiley faces.

Then when you really need a favor, a vote of confidence, an intro, an opinion, you have earned the right to ask. And you will get and gain. Aim for 10%.

Does what I am saying sound like a great idea for everyone else? Have you mentally thought of ten reasons why you should start your networking strategy and then twenty excuses why you can’t? Are you deluding yourself that you have an active, productive network?

If one or all of these points describes you, maybe its time you created a strategy—one with goals and objectives, benchmarks and a time table. Maybe it’s time for you to commit, act, and deliver.

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.