Networking. Google the definition and you’ll find: to interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.
A bit selfish sounding. It’s about us. We want to know, what can we gain from this investment of our time?
Some basic networking facts:
- It requires establishing and nurturing relationships: collecting business cards and LinkedIn connections is not networking if no follow-up interactions occur.
- It is two-way. You need to give – not only take. Meaning, you need to begin networking before you need something.
- Quality (strong) relationships are most important – but that doesn’t mean you should be content with a few current and former colleague as connections.
Sounds like a lot of work, right? Now you not only have to nurture your relationship with your significant other, co-workers, and friends – but also new faces.
The good news…your connections are an invaluable resource beyond helping you find work. They may have been in your position before and can offer some useful advice. Maybe they provide a service that someone you know could use. Or they have added insight on a new industry trend.
More good news…it’s not that hard to nurture these relationships.
But now why do we need to expand our network? Why can’t we simply maintain our small circle?
- It’s never good to have all of our eggs in one basket. Should something happen to your company or industry…they may be in the same boat as you when you need to lean on your network for support.
- New connections provide new perspectives. You don’t know what you don’t know. Seeing an issue or solution through another lens can open your eyes to details and/or solutions we might not have seen otherwise.
- Quantity is a factor in success. Ron Burke found there’s an increase in professional success when you grow your networks and connect them with one another.
So now what? How do you go about expanding our network?
- Start small. Stepping out of your comfort zone can be scary. Begin by having coffee with a colleague from another department, or who serves in another role/position.
- Look for networking groups serving a different purpose/audience than your current one.
- Serve on a board or volunteer your time to a non-profit.
- Ask those in your existing network who they suggest you connect with.
- Don’t limit “networking” to an event. Take advantage of the many people you regularly engage with in your professional AND personal life.