Believe it or not, Webster’s Dictionary defines networking as “The act or process of informally sharing information or support, especially among members of a professional group.” To expand on this, networking is who you know and more importantly who knows you!!!
Most of us are so busy that we feel we don’t have time to network. Why you should network:
- To gain and/or share expertise or information
- To increase exposure for company and/or yourself
- To develop contacts for future use or clients
- To practice communications / presentation skills
Although most of us know how to network, we often skip one or more steps because time gets the best of us. The general steps are:
Brainstorm what YOU know
What is your expertise? Think about the purpose of your business and what others compliment you on. You may even want to write it down and review it later for an ego boost before the next networking opportunity.
Identify who you know
Consider any affiliations you may have that could help you ? an association, previous co-workers, past or current clients, or even a neighbor.
Identify what you need
Remember, a successful networking opportunity doesn’t necessarily always result in an interview today but rather leads to other networking and future opportunities.
Identify how you will get it
What is going to be the best avenue for you to get what you need? Is it going to be by going to the next association meeting? Sending a correspondence via email or mail to your network? Directly calling select contacts? Or taking advantage of the multitudes of marketing opportunities that exist.
Do it This is the step that is often skipped. For example, many individuals join groups or attend meetings to grow their network - But, they show up late and leave early never actually networking.
Remember networking isn’t “selling” - It is “sharing”. As networking guru Zig Ziglar said, “The more you help others get what they want, the more you get of what you want.” At your next networking opportunity, try breaking the ice using your 30 second commercial followed by a lot of listening to learn about the other person and how you can give or help them.
This means immediately writing on the back of the individual’s business card any or all of the following:
- a description of the person;
- notes about the conversation;
- what you can follow-up with them about; and
- information that may be of interest to them at a later date.
No matter what, always follow-up. You should even follow-up if it is just to say thank you for the opportunity to talk at the meeting. You never know when that individual you just met may become a job source tomorrow or refer you to someone else.
Develop a system to help you track your network. Some folks track their network in a Rolodex or business card holder. Others use Outlook and synchronize it with a Personal Digital Assistant so they always have the information no matter where they are. However you choose to track the information, be sure your system helps you find: a person, contact information, how you know the person, when you last spoke to them, etc.
Don’t always be on the receiving end or your network will quickly dry up. Be sure you are also giving as much as your network is giving to you. Remember, what comes around goes around.