Not a lot of people were hiring C-level executives in the middle of the economic downturn. So having a good Rolodex of contacts would've been even more important. My friend learned his lesson. He got a good job -- which ultimately came from a connection -- and he now takes time to build relationships in the business community.
It's no different in the advertising-agency business. Building your network of contacts is as important as building your portfolio of work.
And while it's often an overlooked aspect of business, it's never been easier to accomplish. The tools available today to make connections and develop a network are all around us: Linked In, Twitter, Facebook, Plaxo, and especially email. What does it take to introduce two friends who have mutual business interests? Just a quick email, copying both. Five minutes of your time, and your friends can take it from there. Then they'll return the favor to you one day.
Sure, pretty obvious advice, Marc. Everyone knows that networking is important.
Oh yeah? So how come so many people in advertising have to scramble when they lose their job, or want to leave the agency where they work? When I think of who I agree to meet or bring into my agency for exploratory interviews, it's overwhelmingly through a contact of mine who tee'd up the ask. Typically people who have so much talent creating digital advertising and public relations campaigns just are not good at connecting for business purposes. That puts many gifted folks in our industry at a disadvantage. Much like my friend who ran a big industrial company.
Now I'm no expert at connecting, but my friends tell me I'm one of the more connected people they know. Really? Look, what I do know is that if you follow these simple tips, you will be better prepared to amp up your level of success:
Get outside. If you go to work-stay at your desk-leave for home five days a week, how many new people will you meet? So get involved in your local advertising and public-relations club; attend industry conferences and local non-industry business events. Join. Belong. Participate. If you're not visible, you're invisible.
Pay it forward. One thing many people do is attend a business function, meet a new contact and ask for something. Why should that person who you just met do anything for you? Instead, do something for that person first. Amazing what can happen when you give something valuable for free. What do you think that person's reaction will be when you need them one day down the road?
Make it rain. Want to get promoted faster at your agency and make more money a lot faster? Bring in new business leads. The majority of professional in our business don't know how to bring in a lead, but if you're one of the few who does, imagine what that will do for your career. And the way to bring in a lead is by following the first two points I just described above. Tap your network.
Leverage technology. Be active on professional networking sites such as Linked In. You'll need written recommendations from respected advertising professionals, both on the agency and client sides of the business. Once you have developed your contacts, ask a select few to recommend you and post them on your profile. HR Managers at ad agencies scan online profiles regularly. Of course, social-media sites like Facebook have significant business implications, too. Brownstein Group recently won a new client from someone who reached out because they saw me on Facebook.
Networking is not just about getting a new job or a new client. It's also about making yourself better. Smarter. Connecting to the right people gets you invited to events where you can learn and grow from the various resources -- whether it's a sought-after speaker, panel discussion of advertising leaders from out of your market, or just a one-on-one with someone really intelligent who shares some new insight with you. It's important to learn every day, and getting outside and meeting new people and being exposed to new thinking is critical to your professional growth.
As you see, I believe making a proactive effort to connect, learn and evolve is critical in every aspect of life. It's especially important in our industry, where talent can be vulnerable in business. Apply some extra effort in developing your professional network and I promise only good things will happen.