In this age of job uncertainty, networking has evolved into an art and a skill that everyone is told they need to develop or at least pay attention to. It is about connecting with people with similar interest to help further one’s career or job search. The saying it’s not “what you know but who you know assumes greater resonance in the world of work and pleasure as well. Ideally, it is a relationship of give and take. No one wants to feel used or abused or a stepladder.
Networking has some unwritten rules that if compromised you might find yourself being shunted aside and out of the loop. You cannot approach networking in a selfish way – what’s in it for me. A better way of thinking of networking is “what do I have to contribute?”
Networking is a collaborative, cooperative and collective activity where there is goodwill for everyone. You must want the best outcome for everyone and not try to use the network to further your own career at the expense of anyone or everyone in your paths. Those people are called sharks and sharks are quickly identified and steered clear of. Here are some of the things you have to keep in mind as you build your network:
1) Everyone can be of help to you. Do not discount an old colleague, your neighbor, and the woman who volunteers at a homeless shelter – she may be the sister of a CEO of a company to whom she can refer you.
2) Check out career fairs in your neighborhood, city or community. They offer good information and provide you with important contacts – a person to phone, direct numbers to people who can make a difference, connecting a face to a name you might have heard before.
3) Networking is an opportunity for you to share what you know and learn from others. Be a resource in your network; find out the needs of people in your network and forward them useful information. If they are looking for particular jobs share employment opportunities with group members.
4) Networking does not have to be face to face. You can be part of an international network through email and Internet connections – these are just as valid and can be quite effective. You may have connections in several parts of the country so that whenever you are in that City you can arrange a face-to-face meeting over lunch with one of your contacts.
5) You do not have to limit yourself to only one network. You can belong to several network each for a different purpose;
6) Networking is useful throughout one’s life and not limited only to career or professional enhancement. You can develop a career to expand on your leisure activities as well – travel companions etc.
When you are participating in an online network prepare a
brief description of yourself without giving out too much of your personal
information including your home phone number.
8) When you are part of a face-to-face network a more elaborate introduction might include the skills you have to offer, work or business experience or interests, why you choose the particular network, what interests you. Be clear, concise and interesting. Above all be honest.