Networking, even to a seasoned professional, can seem intimidating or scary at times. The reason for this is due to the fact, that networking can be positive or negative! We don't often think of "negative" networking. Not knowing what constitutes the difference between the two makes it easy to network in a negative manner.
I am sure that you will agree that the term "networking" is one of the most over-used and misunderstood words in our vocabulary. To give you an idea of how the term came to be misunderstood, lets first look at the dictionary definition. To paraphrase the dictionary, networking is defined as "the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions." What we don't see included in the definition is the purpose of networking. We need to view networking in a much broader concept than the dictionary definition. If we view networking as the process of developing and maintaining quality relationships that are mutually beneficial, it won't take long to realize that networking is an ongoing process. The continual building of relationships that can last a lifetime is what makes networking an ongoing process. When we lose touch with someone, then call on them when we are in need, we have just created a negative networking situation.
Positive networking needs to become a way of life. As the old saying goes "It's not what you know but who you know." This is true more than ever in today's competitive world. Networking is not something that comes easily to many people. You may be basically a shy person, possibly feel you don't have the resources, or as most of us are today, just plain busy. You may feel you just don't have the time to network. The fact is that every time you meet someone new, you are given the opportunity to network, learn new things and enrich your life. Because we have broadened our definition of networking to include its purpose, we really don't have time not to network.
Building relationships that will help you reach your potential is easier than you may think. Welcome new opportunities to meet new people. Don't save your networking for specific situations or places. Networking can be done any place, any time. Learn about the other person you are networking with and how you can help them. Help others connect to the people you know can help them, keep your promises and stay in touch. These are all important aspects that are often overlooked when developing network relationships that are mutually beneficial.
Networking takes time and will be ever-evolving. You will always have opportunities to meet new people to add to your list of contacts. Once you have established a relationship, identify the people who can help you, stay connected, and keep your network growing. Identify the organizations and activities where people you want to know gather, get involved and become known.
To give an example of how this works, identify a group that you would like to join. Attend two meetings before joining. While at the meetings introduce yourself to two people and exchange business cards. Arrange two follow-up meetings for coffee or lunch. Now you will know if you truly want to be part of this group and you will have expanded your network by two.
Networking does not have to be difficult, in fact it can be fun. Keep in mind that it is something you will need to constantly work at and before you know it, you will have a strong network behind you to back your efforts
Karen is a graduate of of Cleveland State University and is a freelance writer. Visit her website at http://www.womenatthesummit.com - A site of general interest to women. Topics include: Pregnancy, Children, Parenting, Health and wellness, Diet and Fitness, Relationships, Money, Travel and more.
(c)2004 Karen Zastudil