How important is networking in the world of HR?
Q: How many HR directors does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None, but they all want to be involved*
To me, this little joke sums up why networking is so fundamental to HR professionals. Its all about involvement, knowing, understanding and asking. As a type, HRs are one of the most clued-up of networking sorts; there have always been strong industry voices, trade associations, publications and conferences.
And this just gets stronger and more effective with online networking tools available at HRs working fingertips. Online groups and associations, these days, are forums for finding quick answers to strategic development, thorny staffing dilemmas, legal support and discussing new ideas and trends. They are gathering areas for every HR niche whether its reward, learning and development, recruitment or for the generalists.
But does HR use networking to support career management? Absolutely yes, and in abundance. If you havent caught on yet, you really need to. Creating and maintaining an online personal brand through LinkedIn, Changeboard, Twitter or other networks has become a primary way to create future career opportunities.
* Joke from Personnel Todays Guru, provided from an unnamed member of its HR Directors Club.
Jobseeking through your networks
If you take away only one thing, make it this: 80% of jobs found today are through networking. Not job ads, sending out CVs or contacting new recruiters. People who know you currently or people you build relationships with in the future are the most likely route to finding your next job. It could be the consultancies you use, the contacts youve made at conferences or the people youve spoken to at award dinners. It might be them or people they know.
No matter if its chance meetings or long-term past relationships, keeping those conversations and contacts alive and vibrant is now more important - and easier - than ever.
LinkedIn has become my go to place when I open up my PC every morning. Early HR adopters of LinkedIn are some of the most powerful groups on the site and its easy to see why when its such a simple place to share knowledge and expertise.
How do I get my network started?
Its important to create a personal brand, then keep it alive. Managing online networks is a critical way of maintaining your reputation and keeping in touch with all your contacts.
You can build your contact base bit by bit over time. Connect with people you already know, add new and relevant contacts regularly, then update them on interesting things youve heard, experienced or read about. Show that you have your finger on the pulse.
By joining Twitter to LinkedIn and other social networks, you can send messages and updates to all contacts easily.
Raising your profile through group interaction
Joining groups is a way of keeping abreast of what your colleagues are up to and the problems they are facing, because even beyond career management, their dilemma today could be the one you face tomorrow.
Once youve joined a group, pose a question. Or even better, add your own experience and authority to other peoples dilemmas. Both will further build your profile. Answering questions in an authoritative manner is a great way of creating and increasing your brand. Youve only got to see the volumes of contributors these groups and questions get to realise that its a plus to be included.
Its a good idea to position yourself as a subject matter expert in a certain discipline. Get noticed by your peers as a go-to person on a certain issue. It wont happen overnight, but it can open doors. People who are genuinely taking on responsibility in HR and finding solutions to organisational problems are going to be heard.
Engaging with online social media tools
I know someone whos started using LinkedIn and Twitter, effectively, in the last two weeks. Dont get me wrong, shes had a presence on both sites for many months and shes well-connected in her own right, but has had her profile boom in the last 14 days just by tuning in and regularly posting simple comments and passing on thought-provoking commentary (often relevant information shes read in the media).
People are seeking her out and asking to become a contact. And its taken just a little thought and activity for 3 or 4 minutes a day. The problem now, she says, is not thinking of ideas to comment on, but pulling back and not becoming addicted, something she thought would never happen to her in a month of Sundays.
Get ranked on Google & become a recognised expertGoogle loves all this activity. The higher your optimisation, i.e, the more you contribute, the higher your ranking can become in Google and that has to be great for being well-known in your niche.
Pick your specialisms, or key words, and keep Tweeting or talking about them in LinkedIn. You can even use Google Alert to find out if your name is mentioned - particularly good if you are working with PR to get your expertise mentioned in the media.
Keeping up with HR trends
Things in HR move so quickly; policies, legalities, budgets, software, benchmarking, confidentiality agreements, not least the economy and its affect on redundancies and recruitment. People stay in touch and find support from their peer network.
Internally, HR can be a lonely place, yet in HR groups you can garner quick and positive support. You can search, listen and create answers together.
Tips for embracing networks
So, if you're thinking about career planning, or even if you want to participate in this worldwide networking wonder, we recommend this advice:
- Embrace online social networking a useful and easy opportunity to make yourself known to the right people.
- Contact new and relevant people daily.
- Search the internet to find out whats happening in the industry. Research companies that outperform the market and connect with key individuals.
- You never know who knows who. Some people may need your expertise directly, or they may act as an introducer.
- Talking via LinkedIn and Twitter can feel awkward at first, but youll become fluent quickly.
- Search out social media experts online and follow their advice.
- Protect your personal brand on every relevant social network. Remain professional. Be warned that prospective employers will Google you.
- Promote your LinkedIn and Twitter addresses at the bottom of your emails, to attract followers.
- Work with your PR function to get your name and expertise in the media. Then promote it through LinkedIn and Twitter.
HR is on its way up, and effective networking can make sure your personal brand rockets.