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Thought Challenge 3-28-13


2013 Thought Challenge

Networking...Have a plan and work the plan before you need it!

Kevin M Plante
Director, Loss Prevention Reporting and Analytics
CVS Caremark

If you were training for a marathon, when would you start? A day before the race? A week? Probably not if you actually want to be successful. What if you’d never run for any long distances before? Would you need three months to get ready? Six months or even a year, perhaps? If you really want to run well and have a relatively good chance of finishing (or surviving) the marathon, you probably need the better part of a year to train under normal circumstances. That said; why would you wait until you need to look for a new job to begin networking with people?

Over the last few years, many loss prevention professionals have found themselves victims of reorganizations, downsizing, condensing and shrinking departments and have found themselves on the unemployment line. Once the shock of it all sets in and the realization of what happened is understood, you need to figure out what your next steps should be. It’s important to ask for help. Find out what opportunities are out there, talk to people, call recruiting agencies. The question a lot of people would ask is how many places do you have to go to ask for help or to find out where those jobs are? The answer is easy - if you haven’t networked yourself properly, you may have unintentionally limited your resources.

When people hear the word “networking” they usually think about social media like Facebook and Twitter for their personal contacts and Linked IN for staying in touch with their professional contacts. These social media options are a lot of fun and are a great way to give people an opportunity to keep up with others no matter what they do or where they go, but there is so much more to networking than that.

When someone I worked with almost 20 years ago called me on the phone out of the blue one day, it took me a few minutes to even place the name with a face in my mind. Once I remembered where I knew this person from, there was a little small talk – “how’s the you have kids?” and then the reason for the call started to become clear: “Hey, um...I just lost my job at ABC company last week and I was just calling to see If you happen to know of any positions within your company that I might be a good candidate for?” I most certainly would want to help this person but truth be told, if I have other colleagues that I know better that were in the same position of looking for employment, wouldn’t I be inclined to help them first? Of course I would.

Have a plan – It is important, all the time, to work a plan to keep in touch using The Five Elements:

1.   Use social media tactically and regularly. Consider having a strict policy of only having friends and family connected to you on Facebook. You probably don’t want your boss seeing pictures of you from high school at some party! Use Linked IN as your outlet of choice for professional contact management and staying in touch with colleagues. Get in the habit of updating each regularly so people can read about what is going on in your life at their leisure.
2. Find local events that offer situational networking and information sharing. I like to go to regional Law Enforcement meetings, smaller retailer meetings at malls and the Retailers Association of Massachusetts LP committee events. We have quarterly meetings that combine learning, information sharing and networking. The people who go to those meetings represent many of the major retailers in New England and many law enforcement agencies. There is nothing like putting a name to a face and giving out business cards offering to help and collecting business cards in case you need them someday.
3. Attend professional conferences. ASIS, CFI, NRF and RILA all hold annual conferences. Organized Retail Crime has sprouted many regional conferences throughout the US that you can attend each year. Each conference is an opportunity for education and networking. All associations are aware of each others’ events, so events are usually spread evenly throughout the year so you have multiple opportunities to get to at least one per year. Also, if you hold a professional certification, you may find all of these eligible for use as Continued Education Units (CEU) towards your recertification.
4. Work with area colleges. Find a college in your area that has a Criminal Justice Program and offer to mentor aspiring loss prevention professionals. It may help you because not only do you get to know students, but you also get to know professors and department heads in the school. All people who could help you if you find yourself in need of employment or if you are interested in good advice on continuing your education. Who knows, maybe teaching at college level could be something you might decide to do someday!
5. Talk to people in person. There are so many ways to communicate with people at an impersonal level – texting, email, messages through social media – but what about the old fashioned way like calling people on the phone – or better yet – meeting them face to face if you can? Find the 20 people you really, really want to keep in touch with and can help you – maybe you admire them because they’re smart or work for a great company or have been in the business for years – and maybe that 20 person list changes sometimes – call them or try to get together for coffee. Find one hour on one day each week and make those phone calls. By the end of the month, you’ve talked to all 20 people and actually had a meaningful conversation with them.

So what happens when you successfully navigate the “five elements of networking”? You get to know people and they get to know you. You become a resource for people because they get an idea of what your experiences and expertise is while you learn from them. Maybe you find one of them a position at your company or perhaps you find a friend of theirs a position where you work or at another company based on information you heard from another contact. Now your network is larger and people know who you are.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of looking for employment, you will most likely ask yourself “now what do I do?” The first thing you should do is reach out to your contacts and ask for help. The better you’ve networked leading up to that point, the better chance you’ll have of getting the help you need. There’s an old saying that says “It’s not what you know, but rather who you know”. When you need to differentiate yourself from 100 other people with similar experiences and education it does help to know someone. Don’t wait until you need to network; instead make networking part of your regular routine. Start today because you never know when your marathon will need to be run and you’ll need to be in great shape for it.

Kevin can be reached at 401-770-8083 or

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