In our last blog on business networking, I shared seven tips on how to lay the foundation for building a successful business network by creating a comprehensive plan that can really work. The post suggested that you find your communications “voice,” keep an electronic Rolodex, build a calendar and many other preliminary aspects of creating a network of important contacts to help you thrive in your aviation-related career.
But, as we all know, a plan is only effective when you combine your desire, ability and acquired knowledge and put them into practice.
And that takes some work and commitment.
The next five tips will help you take action and make your business networking plan pay off:
1. Get out of the hangar.
Many people are perfectly comfortable sticking close to their core group of friends. But “networking” isn’t about staying in the comfort zone your friends and regular co-workers might offer. By doing so, you’re likely to miss the chance to meet hundreds—if not thousand—of smart, talented aviation professionals that you see from a distance every year. For instance, you never know whom you’ll meet at an FBO pilot lounge, a regional NBAA forum, at the restaurant on the field or at the local pilot group.One way to network with people that share similar interests is to navigate through the NBAA member directory. There is a WEALTH of information on this site! And if you’re looking to join a standing committee, check out NBAA.org for ideas. You may find a forum in which you and your peers can discuss what’s happening and take away best practices to your team.
2. Network at work.
Do you have strong relationships with your team, your manager and others who work for your company? When you get to know the people you see even more often than your family (and then, if you happen to go separate ways, hopefully stay in touch with), they’ll be much more likely to help you (or you help them) if you’re ever in need of a favor, reference or referral.Go beyond the flight department to get to know other people in areas of your business, such as Accounting and Finance, IT, Travel Services or Security. If it’s possible (and appropriate to do so), see if you can gain access to your reporting executive and learn what his or her world is like. When you meet others in your company, you’ll make a name for yourself and also become more capable of honing your business skills.
3. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
The reach and power of a human network is such that it just might be of service to you when you least expect it. And yet it’s common for people to wait until they absolutely need one to start building it. By then, it might be too late. It can be awfully hard to tap into an under-developed network and—let’s be frank—no one likes the smell of desperation! My biggest advice is to start with it now and identify people whom you should connect with to help you in three, five or seven years.
4. Work on your approach.
Having social graces and maintaining professionalism definitely come into play when building relationships. Remember that, first and foremost, people are more willing to help those who they like, trust and respect. And some might even be willing to help someone that they’ve never met–especially if they get a sincere message that shows respect.For example, say that you’re looking to learn more about a company or job opportunity and see someone’s profile on LinkedIn. Perhaps they used to work for the company you’re researching. Maybe they can offer advice or connect you with someone with valuable insight.
It’s OK to invite people into your network and ask whether they would consider being a set of eyes and ears for you. Be sincere and ask, “Would you consider being a part of my professional network, because I happen to really respect who you are and what you do.” Treat them with dignity and you’ll be more likely to get positive results because it shows that you’re serious (not just connecting for the sake of connecting). And always thank people who’ve helped you, and, by all means, ask how you might be able to help them.
5. Practice makes perfect.
Maintaining strong relationships takes work and effort—especially if you want to develop long-lasting respect and trust. If you’re not sure how to network professionally, practice in your local community and with your family. If you volunteer as the soccer coach, talk to the other parents. Network at church or at the grocery store. If there’s a phone call that you’ve been putting off for a long time, put it on your calendar and dial that number. Think about how you follow up and follow through.
Put your Networking Plan in Action Today!
Now that you have an “arsenal” of helpful pointers, the sky’s the limit! It’s time to first create a plan to build your business network and then put it into positive action. The worst thing you can do is to procrastinate and put off doing what you know will give you a lot of positive career momentum and leverage. Here at Aviation Personnel International, we admire the true business aviation professional who plans, organizes and executes his or her career-building with focus and finesse—so become that person!
What are some of the ways that you’ve found success in building and maintaining your business aviation network? If you’ve found success as a skilled networker, please use the comments section below to share any tips you might have with our readers.