What to start doing for the rest of your MSL/professional career

No matter where your career takes you, no matter what job you land, or even what you do in life – the most important skill you want to master is networking. Since this is really important, here it is again:

The most important skill you want to master is Networking.

Remember a few articles back, when I said that if I were to use the resume that I once used to apply to MSL jobs, I’d probably not get hired?

I was successful in my job searches back then because I had a powerful network.

When I was applying to a pharmaceutical sales position, I gave my resume (which had absolutely ZERO pharma/direct sales experience and I wasn’t even done with my PhD degree) to one of my contacts within the industry. Even though we never worked directly together, he knew me as a person and of my work. He gave the resume to his contact at the company: the President of the U.S. business unit!

You bet that when that President sent my resume down the ranks to the regional sales director, the sales director paid attention to my application even when I didn’t fit the traditional sales rep profile.

I got the job.

I know you’ve heard before about the importance of networking, but what people often associate with “networking” is actually “notworking”.

Here’s what networking is not:

– handing out as many business cards as you can per minute

– being a “LION” (LinkedIn open networker) where you say “yes” to everyone’s invite

– tallying the number of hellos you can say at a networking event

Networking only really works when:

– people can speak intelligently about you (not “oh, that’s just a linkedin contact”)

– you connect with a connector – a person who knows the right people for a particular situation

– you offer something of value to a connector so it is truly a mutually beneficial exchange

I have nothing against adding lots of contacts and filling up your virtual Rolodex with names and email addresses. I also know that we all receive ridiculous amounts of email and those of us on social networks spend a lot of time managing our memberships. This makes it even more difficult for anyone to stand out.

I said that I had a “powerful” network, but I want to explain what that means.

It does not mean that I have a ‘big” network.

Every month I actually go through both my LinkedIn and Facebook accounts and eliminate duplicate contacts or people with whom I really do not have a substantive exchange. That’s becoming difficult because I run businesses in multiple areas beside the MSL space, but I still keep an eye out on the quality of my network.

A powerful network gives you results, time after time.

If you send out a request and maybe 2 or 3 of the 500+ contacts you have answer your request, you have just collected a list of names and you haven’t established a true network.

If your network constantly asks you to do something for them but you aren’t getting value in return, you have not created a powerful network.

If you go through your contact list and ask, “who is this and when did I add him?” you have not created a powerful network!

A “powerful” network is one that:

– gives you access to the people you need to connect with – full of connectors

– offers complementary skills and expertise to your own skills and expertise

– serves a specific purpose that you have defined

You also want to be very careful how to you use any particular “connector” within your network. Remember that this person is inundated with requests from many directions because of their status as connectors. You want to make sure that before you ask something of anyone, that you first provide value to that person.

Social networks have made it easier than every for people to use each other in superficial transactional ways. You want to be known as someone who has the integrity and thoughtfulness to not waste others’ time, and not take someone’s good will or help for granted. Power networking is how you turn what value you bring into a difference for others!

Trust me, it goes a long way, and far into the future.