3 Essentials for Successful Networking
A systems project manager with 30 years experience at a Fortune
500 company is suddenly downsized. A college student is trying
to find summer employment related to her major. The parent
of a high school student is helping students set up job shadow
experiences. These are perfect situations where a network
can be useful.
Learning how to build and engage your network effectively
is a vital Career
Literacy skill. Often misunderstood, networking
and its value are underestimated. Once learned, however, it
becomes a way of life, improving access to information and
resources that can make everyone's life easier - whether seeking
a job, industry information, a reliable babysitter or a plumber
in your neighborhood!
Productive networking is the process of continually meeting
new people in order to establish mutually reciprocal, long-term
relationships. Together, we help each other accomplish
personal, professional or business goals. Through networking,
we can extend our reach to get things done, share our knowledge
and capabilities, and connect people to one another.
1. Pick organizations where you can become involved in
Are you seeking an opportunity to contribute to your professional
development, community issues, or business development? Access
to other people in a network is a by-product of getting involved.
You earn access to others by giving your time and talents
to a group. Networking is a two-way street. Join a group or
organization because you have a genuine interest in the purpose
of that group. People learn to trust and remember an individual
who builds a reputation for being helpful to others.
An important benefit of these relationships is being able
to ask members of your network for specific information. Are
you looking for information about a company or a hiring manager?
Are you looking for ideas and information that will help you
solve a problem you're experiencing in your current work?
Are you looking for a job? Are you curious about a new technology
or technique in your field, and want to learn more about it?
Are you looking for people and companies that would be in
a position to purchase products or services from you? Are
you also looking to increase your professional visibility
so others are aware of your expertise when they need assistance?
Parents and students can benefit from networking contacts
who help them learn more about a career path or work environment,
or provide an opportunity for an internship or summer job.
Even mid-career adults looking to change careers or find volunteer
work can use networking and informational
interviews to test the water before taking the plunge.
2. Determine where to find the people who can help you
accomplish your purpose.
Time is one of the most precious commodities we have. As
you consider investing time in building your network, keep
in mind the mission of the organization is generally not solely
networking. Here are some ideas:
Professional organizations allow you to meet other individuals
in your industry or line of work. People involved in professional
organizations typically enjoy what they do and are approachable.
Students are often invited to attend meetings. These are
prime places to connect with people for informational interviews
or to arrange for a job shadowing day with someone. If you
can't attend a meeting, the websites for these groups will
have officers and committee chairs listed with their contact
information, so a contact is only a call or email away.
Alumni networks are great if you are looking to support
your school, establish long-term social relationships and
develop business leads. You have the opportunity to network
with contacts in certain jobs, companies or living in different
areas of the world. While these networks are usually established
for college alumni, some large corporations maintain alumni
networks of former employees, like Deloitte Touche, IBM,
KPMG and Sun Microsystems.
Online social and professional networks are a growing
phenomenon. While students are flocking to myspace.com
or facebook.com, professionals are joining LinkedIn.com.
We recommend caution when using these online networking
sites. Why? Because any personal information or opinions
you share are recorded and may be seen by a future employer
at any time.
Leads groups are professional networks whose mission
is to help your fellow members develop business leads
and increase sales. Many Chambers of Commerce support
this type of development while supporting the local community.
Job Search groups are excellent for new ideas and support
while you are looking for a new position. Check out our
list of local job
search groups. Each group is a little different from
the next; so visit a number of them to see what they offer.
Many have speakers, some share job leads, and all offer
a community for support when the going is tough and for
celebration when activities yield success.
Networking gets easier the more you do it. Be strategic.
Seek out "hub people" - those individuals who are
at the center of their large network. Hub people, like the
center of a wheel with spokes, are connected to many diverse
people and are seen as "go to" people if you're
trying to find information or a personal contact. When you
plug into a hub person, you plug into their network.
3. Once you meet a person, consider how you will grow
the relationship and how you can be a resource to them.
Be the first to offer something of value, for example, a lead
or an emailed article related to their industry. Find out
how you can help the other person achieve their goals. Growing
a relationship is similar to investing small deposits in a
savings account, knowing that at some time in the future,
you may need to make a withdrawal, calling on your relationship
for something you may need from the other person.
Successful people have integrated their networking into their
everyday activities. How frequently you keep in touch depends
on the size of your network. Some people call or email a few
people every week, while others may strive for several quick
contacts per day. You may invite someone to a breakfast or
lunch meeting to ask their advice. You won't have to do all
the work though; people in your network will take the initiative
to contact you as well.
We have all heard the expression, "It's not what you
know, but who you know that's important." As you build
and maintain relationships, you will find that when you need
to find the best source for information or help, your network
contacts will be the "who you know" who can point
you to what you need to know - fast.
© Copyright 2006, Career Vision / Ball Foundation. Article
may be reprinted with permission.
Direction. Decisions. Satisfaction.