We all hear about networking in today’s professional environment. We are told it is a necessary skill, not an optional one. For many of us, though, the first thing to figure out is exactly what is networking, and then, how does one go about doing it successfully?
According to many experts, networking means: To build relations on the basis of trust that involves a give and take. Although this seems simple, it is certainly easier said than done. Let’s break it down….
To build relations: To build a relationship means that you are developing a pattern of interactions with another person. If there is a pattern, then you will have had to have made a good first impression because otherwise it is unlikely that contact will continue between you and the other person.
On the basis of trust: Trust suggests confidence in someone or something to be reliable, valid and truthful. Trust in a person also involves seeing strength in him/her.
Involves a give and take: Networking involves helping others and providing something or some service to others while also looking for something or some service from others.
So, how does one go about doing all of this? Below are my top 3 do’s and don’ts for professionally networking with others.
Make a good first impression. This includes:
- Being on-time to your meeting
- Over-dress as opposed to under-dressing
- Being appreciative – say thank you!
- Listening attentively
Develop a goal and strategy:
- Prepare ahead of time by researching the person and organization you are meeting with.
- Contemplate in advance what you hope to gain from this meeting in terms of information and additional potential contacts.
- Strategize what you can offer the person you are meeting with so that you ensure you are completing the ‘give and take’ component of networking.
- Always follow-up immediately after the meeting with a handwritten note or personal email.
- Reach out to your contacts quarterly, semi-annually or even annually with a card, phone call or email in order to ensure you maintain the relationship.
Ask for a job:
Asking for advice and asking someone to employ you are two very different things. It is always safe to ask others about their professional experiences and how they made the choices they did. It is rarely safe to ask others if they can hire you. While that may or may not develop over time, best to leave the start of that conversation up to the person who might potentially hire you. Your asking for a job threatens your image of strength and confidence, both of which are key components of trust.
Stop networking because you have a job:
Networking is most effective for growing on the job or changing jobs. When you are in crisis and trying to find a job, it is not the right time to attempt to build a network.
Growing your network and maintaining your network via intermittent follow-ups to others takes time and purposeful energy. Make networking part of your professional duties so that you have relationships to call upon when you are in need of help.
Underestimate the power of networking:
Finding a job takes more than filling out an application on line, attending a job fair or even having an amazing resume.
In an August 2009 survey competed by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., a global outplacement firm, human resources executives were asked to rate the effectiveness of various job-search methods on a scale of 1 (least effective) to 5 (most effective). Networking averaged a 3.98. And, about half of the executives gave networking the highest effectiveness rating of 5.
In the end, networking has become an essential part of everyone’s professional life. Focusing on the importance of your network, networking with awareness and purpose, and following the do’s and don’ts listed above can all have a positive impact on your professional path and help you find success, satisfaction and opportunities in your career.