What makes networking effective?
When hearing the term “networking” in the context of work, many people imagine putting on a suit, going to a networking event and approaching a stranger, to shake hands and exchange business cards.
There are plenty of other possibilities: a lot of networking happens rather informally and spontaneously, which, to most of people, feels more comfortable than the situation described above.
Everyday situations and encounters contain a lot of networking. For example, when talking about work to a new person in the company canteen, to a colleague from a different department, an ex-colleague from university we met in the street, when chatting with another parent at the playground or asking your bank contact for advice on a good accountant… all of these can be considered forms of networking.
The main value of networking is in developing a number of relationships in which we can share new ideas, exchange feedback, inform each other about new opportunities, cooperate on common work activities and give support over time. Having such contacts is one of the most important keys to a successful working life, if not the main one. That applies no matter what your personal definition of success is.
Our networks, however, consist of more than just the few closest work contacts. We meet many people just once or twice, and we share information, advice and experience with them.
While developing contacts, we are simultaneously building our professional reputation. Networking is thus an important self-marketing tool, as well. People learn that we exist, what we are good at and what we are interested in.
Networking is the most enjoyable and fruitful:
1. when it is done for the mutual benefit of both sides.
That is when nobody is abusing or feels abused, and both sides are interested in developing the contact.
Networking does not mean approaching someone to ask for a favour, a job or to make an instant sale. In such cases, even though we do not explicitly say that we are interested in getting a job or making a sale, if that is the main reason why we started talking to someone, the hidden agenda is there, and it shows. The other person will likely feel bothered and want to escape, because that was not why they had communicated with us.
Networking should be done with the clear intention of being useful for both sides, not just one.
2. when we work on developing the relationships gradually.
The best work contacts are those with people we know well, like a lot, and trust – and building such relationships takes time.
It is too late to approach someone only when we urgently need something particular from that person. Effective networking is about honest interest rather than immediate benefits.
Making a new contact is just the first step towards giving a potential work relationship a chance. The art of networking is in following up.
3. when both sides truly believe that networking is a good thing.
Only then they can be authentic and relaxed in the communication.
However, people sometimes have doubts about whether a particular contact will be useful for them, or whether they have anything to offer each other. You can read more in the article “What if networking is just not my thing“, here.
In general, we tend to judge, and make assumptions, too fast, and thus miss many interesting opportunities. We can never know who and what people know unless we give them a chance and listen to them. Neither do we know what they actually need and seek. So keep an open mind.
Everybody can find some way of networking that suits them.
Also, you can make the day of any other person nicer just by being the likeable person they met on that day.
„Networking means the act of exchanging information with people who can help you professionally.“ http://www.yourdictionary.com/networking
„Creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit. Networking is based on the question ‘How can I help?‘ and not with ‘What can I get? ‘“ http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/networking.html#ixzz1mjkKLDWP
Find more articles related to networking here.