What is networking and why should we network?
A possible definition of networking - exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions, cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.
However, it is important to note that networking is more than several hundred contacts in your phone and much more than a presence on a social network.
I recently received an email along the following lines from attending a local network event.
I have met the person in question twice and spent about 35 minutes in their company:
"Hi, remember me we meet a couple of times at that network event. I noticed from your social media that you are doing very well. I am looking for a job, can you give me a job, alternatively recommend me to someone…”
This is not the best way to use your networking opportunities, networking is certainly not a direct soliciting for a job, contract or advertising space or random contact out of the blue.
Even in this modern digital age networking should not just happen virtually. We have not evolved as a race to accept virtual networking, people still buy from people but like to meet those people face to face.
When carried out correctly networking will work as a strategy to acquire your dream job or gaining a new client, actually it might be the best way for that, but it requires knowledge in building mutual trust and frequent contact with members of our 'network'
The definition I have quoted earlier was a good “book” definition but lacks some vital key information. Firstly, to have a network of contacts, you need acquire and nurture them. They may be colleagues from college, student organizations, people from all institutions and organizations that so far co-operated with you. It’s not the quantity which is important but the quality. Quality contacts will give you a far greater reach than a volume of contacts that are just data in a database.
Recent research has found that a person is able to maintain quality contact only with 150 people. Exceeding this will result in a reduction in the quality of the relationship.
Who should be in your network? It should be people that we like, we know very well and most importantly whom we trust, people who we can have a win win relationship with.
Networking is a relationship
True networking is never ending, and certainly doesn’t’ stop on ‘adding’ someone new to your profile on social media as a connection. It is a dish that needs a few of essential components: systematic, time, trust and reciprocity. Mix them well and you will be a successful networker.
You know what your connection is interested in? Send them a link to interesting articles in the field. Find out if you have any common interests? This gives you an opportunity to develop your relationship besides talking about work. Of course never forget any key celebrations in your connections life such as birthday, wedding anniversary, work anniversary.
Many people develop their network of contacts then never achieve a return on that investment. It’s important to use your network services. Do not be afraid to ask for a favour, buy from them – sell your own services. Networking is about building confidence between two parties so that each one of them is happy to recommend each other’s services.
Networking is a measurable benefit
So you have defined a networking action plan. How do you know all this networking is paying off? A simple spreadsheet tracking who has referred your business could help you track your return and help to plan how and which connections deserve special attention from you.
Networking pays off, because good and trustworthy "business friend" is great access to knowledge, skills, contacts and resources which you might not poses.
Last but not least - networking is a commitment, but should also be a pleasure.
Would you agree?