My advice was to start finding future clients today. Had he thought about what kind of industry he wanted to specialize in? Had he thought about where the top people in that industry hang out? Once he could answer those questions, the next step was to go hang with this new circle of people.
“The most important thing is to get to know these people as friends, not potential customers,” I said. “Though you’re right about one thing: No matter how friendly you are, if the people you approach are any good at what they do, they won’t hire you right off the bat to do their PR. Which is why you should offer your services for free—at least at first. For instance, maybe you can volunteer your time to a nonprofit organization they’re involved in, or aid in publicizing a school fundraiser their kids are involved in.” “But won’t my employer be angry at my expending so much energy on other things?” George asked. “Doing good work for your employer comes first,” I told him. “Finding time to manage your outside work is your responsibility. Concentrate on an industry that your present employer doesn’t service. Remember, if you haven’t done the necessary legwork on the day you decide to open your own business, you’ll be back at your old job in no time flat.”
Too often, we get caught up efficiently doing ineffective things, focusing solely on the work that will get us through the day. The idea isn’t to find oneself another environment tomorrow—be it a new job or a new economy—but to be constantly creating the environment and community you want for yourself, no matter what may occur.
Right now, there are countless ways you can begin to create the kind of community that can help further your career. You can:
(1) create a company-approved project that will force you to learn new skills and introduce you to new people within your company;
(2) take on leadership positions in the hobbies and outside organizations that interest you;
(3) join your local alumni club and spend time with people who are doing the jobs you’d like to be doing;
(4) enroll in a class at a community college on a subject that relates to either the job you’re doing now or a job you see yourself doing in the future. All of these suggestions will help you meet new people. And the law of probability ensures that the more new people you know, the more opportunities will come your way and the more help you’ll get at critical junctures in your career.
The big hurdles of networking revolve around the cold calls, meeting of new people, and all the activities that involve engaging the unknown. But the first step has nothing to do with strangers; you should start connecting with the people you do know. Focus on your immediate network: friends of friends, old acquaintances from school, and family. I suspect you’ve never asked your cousins, brothers, or brothers-in-law if they know anyone that they could introduce you to to help fulfill your goals. Everyone from your family to your mailman is a portal to an entirely new set of folks. So don’t wait until you’re out of a job, or on your own, to begin reaching out to others. You’ve got to create a community of colleagues and friends before you need it.
Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi, Tahl Raz