Networking is an essential part of career development and professional behaviors. Remember these points when planning and engaging in networking
What is Networking?
- Networking is the currency of career success
- A conversation with business intent
- Making a connection that may bring something else about
- Building relationships
- Primarily an “influence mechanism”
- The active use and development of contacts for individual and professional development
- The creation of an ever-expanding group of people who know about you, your skill-set and the ways in which your talents make a positive contribution
Networking is the new way to describe conversations, developing acquaintances, increasing awareness in others about who we are and what our skills are. You must “put yourself out there,” so there’s a risk. But with risk, there’s also potential reward.
From a business standpoint, it important for all data management professionals to connect and identify mutual interests. On one hand there’s the continuum of relationship-building networking; and on the other hand, there’s the short-term transaction.
Let’s contrast and compare old and new schools of thought concerning networking. The OLD was about meet and greet, getting the highest number of business cards, the quantity of people one talked to, talking at people, what can ‘I’ get, discussing your business and building a fat Rolodex.
The NEW is about engaging in meaningful conversations, the quality of the dialogue one has, talking with people, what can be given mutually, co-creating value and adding value, building trusted connections. The NEW focus for networking is an essential component of a professional’s development.
Five Points to Remember
- Networking is long-term, organic, and personal. It’s about building and maintaining relationships, not just making contacts.
- Networking is a life-long activity. It’s a way to develop resources and support for needs when they arise along the way. CONTRAST WITH – “now I need help and start calling people for favors.”
- Networking is getting to know people. It’s being genuinely interested in the other person, with all the follow-up that this entails. CONTRAST WITH – just shaking hands, meeting people.
- Networking is like building a bank account by constantly making deposits onto the account. It’s staying in touch with people, communicating about oneself and asking about others on a regular basis. CONTRAST WITH – expecting something very specific from people you meet.
- Networking is about providing value. It’s a long-term, strategic process with intrinsic value. CONTRAST WITH – self-centered “blitzes” like advertisements that are not backed-up by a value proposition.
Why is Networking Important?
Networking has become increasingly important in the context of “free agency.” Most professionals are knowledge workers, and we manage our own careers. There’s been a flattening of the centralized, hierarchical corporate structures and some companies are moving toward minimalist organizations. The boss does not have everything we seek anymore. And experience has shown that informal contact development meetings are a very rich source of information, job leads and professional growth.
- Increased self-awareness – learn how you’re perceived by others
- Opportunities to learn about new career possibilities
- Overcome the fear of rejection and improve interpersonal skills
- A reality check – confirming we are on the right track in a career, in professional development, etc.
A Networking Strategy
- Networking should be an attitude, a way of life to build and maintain relationships
- It’s important not to think of it as short-term (i.e., only when you’re out of work or looking for a solution to a specific problem)
- It’s a way to forge connections and build strong business relationships
- It’s being interested in others vs. interesting others
- It’s being active vs. passive
- It’s knowing what you have to offer and how it can benefit others
- It’s information-sharing
- It’s taking action and making things happen between you and others for mutual benefit
- Everyone gives and gets in relational networking
- Do not get emotionally attached to the outcome
- Know yourself and leverage your strengths
- Build increased awareness in others of your skill-set
- Find out what others “are all about”
- Enhance your offering by learning how your skill-set applies to different businesses
- Conduct networking meetings face-to-face (or on Zoom) whenever possible, as opposed to over the telephone
- The purpose is to share information and make new connections, not simply to sell yourself
- Be prepared to listen, to ask questions, to show interest in the other person
- Be very careful to respect the time of the person you’re meeting with – successful networking can be done in 45 minutes or less
- Do networking in three phases – the “ask,” the “do” and the “follow-up”
- Wear proper attire; be professional
- Networking is a process, and it requires structure – follow a proven protocol
- Develop a tracking system to manage all the details of each contact
- Start with people you know on your “contact list”
- Networking is serendipitous; be prepared enough to be spontaneous
- Leverage natural bonds and connections
- Set goals and strive for continuous improvement of performance
- Don’t pre-judge or edit the list of people you’ll contact; never assume you know whom they know or don’t know
- Not everyone will be an appropriate person with whom to network, so don’t “force it”
- Arrive early at an event or meeting and greet people as they arrive
- Develop and constantly use your 15-second commercial (Positioning Statement)
- Target one meaningful interaction at a time – which means to connect at a human level without distraction
- Listen actively
- Be generous with your time and resources
- Share your knowledge, suggestions, and connections
- Remember names and other points about the person, take notes
- Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up
- Have fun and enjoy the process
All professionals, including those in the data management fields, need to develop and maintain a proactive approach to networking for career and personal advancement. Following these guidelines and tactics can improve anyone’s networking skill.
A version of this article appeared at https://careerpotential.com/career-advice-article/reflections-on-networking/