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Building Your Hospitality Network
By Michelle Vessel
What if there were a secret weapon you could call upon to advance your hospitality career, help you overcome workplace dilemmas, clue you in to new developments in the industry, and even help you learn of pertinent job openings and uncover hidden career opportunities? Believe it or not, experts say that you can easily have all of these capabilities at your disposal – indeed, you likely already do. The secret weapon that can grant you access to all of these advantages? The power of your professional network.
A Foundation for Career Success
Whether you're an established professional with a long track record in the industry or a new recruit seeking your first hospitality position, you’ve probably already accumulated a web of contacts, mentors, colleagues, friends, and advisors who form the basis of your very own network. However, in order to expand on your basic network and make the most of your contacts’ collective knowledge and connections, you have to develop a personal networking strategy that makes sense in the context of your career path.
According to Lynne Waymon, co-author of
Make Your Contacts Count: Networking Know-How for Business and Career Success
, a little planning can go a long way in helping you to optimize the effectiveness of your networking strategy. Although the act of making new connections and tending to existing relationships is inherently social and often unfolds in spontaneous and unexpected ways, you’ll get a lot more out of your networking efforts if you devise and implement an overarching plan. Use these tips from top networking experts to help you take your career prospects and professional success to the next level.
Make a habit of stepping out of your comfort zone
. To build the most effective network, you need to come into contact with a wide variety of industry players. For most of us, that means attending mixers, get-togethers, conferences, and other events on a regular basis – sometimes even when you’d prefer to stay home. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of this process for networking newcomers is overcoming the near-universal reluctance to approach strangers. The good news? This fear tends to disappear or at least diminish significantly with practice. Develop a repertoire of small talk and ice-breaking techniques to rely on until you feel comfortable enough to wing it in any networking situation.
Remember that information is the currency of networks
. Although benefits like job opportunities, industry intelligence, and potential business partnerships are what most people are looking for when they network, information is what networks really help to convey and communicate. Rather than directly requesting job offers or opportunities from your network contacts, ask them for information and insight. Also, don’t forget to do your part by offering others in your network information that may be pertinent to their situation.
Seek out a broad range of contacts and colleagues
. Most networking newbies start out by focusing on connecting with as many visible, high-ranking industry players as possible. Although it’s beneficial to have some prominent contacts in your address book, experts say that the most powerful networks contain a greater number of “super connecters”; people who may not be corporate executives, but have ties to many others in the industry. By making connections with contacts from many different roles and sectors, you’ll be able to build a broad and diverse network from the ground up.
Tend your network carefully
. In order to get the most out of your network, it’s important to dedicate time and effort to keeping your list of contacts in tip-top shape. As with a garden, the more time you invest in maintenance and upkeep, the more fruitful your network will prove to be later on. Keep your contact list organized using a system or tool that works for you, and try to connect with your contacts at least three to four times a year. Periodically weed out contacts who have moved on or whose information is no longer current.
Give thanks and pay it forward
. Information is the fuel that keeps networks moving forward, but gratitude and mutual consideration are what keep things moving smoothly. If one of your contacts has done a favor for you, make a point of thanking them with a visit or a kind gesture. Perhaps even more importantly, return the favor and help maintain the integrity and value of your network by doing your part to convey key information and insight whenever you think it may benefit one of your contacts.
Although building your network can be challenging, there’s probably no greater determinant of career success. Whether you’re an established professional or a first-time jobseeker, cultivating the networking habit is a great way to get your career on the fast track.
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