Networking is one of the essential ingredients of success. Ask a successful person!
But what is it? The shorthand version might go something like this:
The ABC of networking
A is for Attitude. It’s your approach, your personality and how you incorporate it into your life. It’s social.
B is for Business. It’s professional, systematic and a vital part of your work. It’s practical.
C is for Communication. It’s two-way interaction, effective messaging and clarity. It’s interpersonal.
OK… It might not be as easy as A.B.C. Maybe it’s more like N.E.T.W.O.R.K.I.N.G.
N – New people, new ideas, new approaches
Any time spent in networking is time well spent. That’s because it allows you relatively easy access to a wide range of new ways of seeing, thinking and doing.
A different perspective is often the starting point for innovation, development and expansion of your own career ‘toolbox’.
E – Extend, and diversify, your contacts through networking
Your contacts are people who might be able, and available, to help you. You might also be a good resource for them.
Your aim should be to reach further and make your interactions with like-minded people work even better for you.
And then there are the unexpected benefits: making contact with people who, initially, you might not have thought to interact with.
T – Take a systematic approach
First, make a list of people you already know, and contact them. Let them know what you are doing now, and what you hope to do in the near future.
Make it clear you are interested in expanding your professional circle.
Second, go to events and meetings. Exchange business cards, and follow up each introduction with an email. It shouldn’t be a sales pitch or marketing material.
Simply send a friendly acknowledgement of the contact you’ve had, and provide your details.
Third, use social media and industry forums. Linked In, for example, is a great resource for building a list of like-minded contacts.
Just don’t make every communication sound like you are selling something!
Finally, maintain a current contact list. Revise it regularly, and make sure you use it!
W – Work on networking
Effective networking doesn’t just happen by itself. Attending industry gatherings and exchanging details is just the beginning. It can be time-consuming, sometimes even expensive.
Regard networking as part of your job, and think of it as an investment in your future. Then put in the effort accordingly.
O – Open up more opportunities
Networking is your ‘ear to the ground’. It will eventually work for you if, and when, you are open to new career ventures. And when opportunity knocks (or stamps), just make sure you are there to hear.
R – Raise your profilevia networking
Networking increases your visibility.
The more you are ‘seen’ and heard, the more likely you will advance your prospects in your current situation. It will also give you an advantage when you are ready for future career moves.
Most people like to do business with those they know or those whom their colleagues know.
K – Keep up with relevant professional development
Networking is an ideal way to keep up – to hear about the latest journals, useful seminars, or dynamic speakers. When you stay up to date with what’s happening, you are more impressive.
Let your employer know you are happy to attend workshops and seminars. You could also suggest that your team might benefit from relevant professional learning.
Learning and development events (whether delivered in person or ‘virtually’) are excellent opportunities to extend your professional network.
I – Increase your commitment to the industry or business you are in
The more you mix and move in the relevant circles, the more involved and interested you will become in the field you have chosen.
Networking helps you build, and demonstrate, your commitment to your career choice. This gives you an advantage if you are seeking promotion, and makes you a more attractive prospect for future employers.
N – Nurture your relationships
Making contact with a wide range of people is a good start, but it’s not just about ‘who you know’. You should also think about ‘who they know’ and ‘who knows you’.
You have to take good care of your business relationships. That basically means all your contacts – present and potential future clients, colleagues, and professionals who work in related areas.
At the same time, remember it’s a two-way street. The person you help or refer today might be the one who does the same for you tomorrow. Be generous.
Only the most cynical see networking as simply a way of benefiting themselves. Be known for the right reasons.
G – Gain more confidence
Networking continually expands your comfort zone. It will help you develop greater awareness and understanding of the marketplace, the ‘influencers’ and the dynamics associated with the industry in which you work.
Networking will build your confidence and you’ll be prepared to move even further afield.
‘The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity’ – Keith Ferrazzi
That’s why you should get started A.S.A.P