For the longest time — like for most of my adult life up until now — I prided myself in getting things done on my own. Whatever it was: pushing my car, digging a ditch, buying milk, whatever. Inever asked for help. I have come to learn that approach may have been good for John Wayne while he was galloping over the plains of Montana, but it’s not a good way to run and organize your life in the 21st century. Especially if you are running a business, thinking of starting one or are self-employed. The art of networking, baby. Learn it…live it…and reap the benefits.
So what is networking? It’s interaction. Networking is socializing with a purpose. Interacting frequently with other like-minded individuals keeps you up to date on what’s hot and what’s not in your field of choice. Networking doesn’t necessarily mean you’re having dinner or going out for a beer with this individual. It’s making contacts in your field of work, rubbing elbows with those who have the same interests as you do — whether it’s job-related, a hobby, involving school or among parents and peers. Networking isn’t just looking for individuals that can help you; it’s YOU offering your services, your knowledge, and your experience to others.
And believe me, when you start giving…or at least offering to give…you’ll be surprised at how fast your circle-of-influence starts to grow. You’ll also notice that you will eventually get what you want by giving others what they need.
So how does one network? It’s probably easier said than done. But just to start out. You probably already have a network and you don’t even know it. What am I talking about? Consider the following: family, friends, neighbors, people you know at church, folks at the gym and even places you may volunteer. If you draw up a list right now and draw on some of the sources I just tossed your way you could probably come up with at least 10 names.
O-k, let’s pause for just a second. Maybe you’re wondering why you would want to network in the first place. Maybe you are looking for a job or a service. And like I alluded to early on, people do business with people they know, like and trust. If you can make some headway in those three areas, you’ll be accomplishing something not even most presidents can do. In order to network you want to go where people who need your skills, talents, services or product gather.
The Wall Street Journal’s “Career Journal” (www.careerjournal.com), offers up some great tips for networking, but one of the more interesting ones may also be one of the most difficult: Prepare an “elevator speech.” Think about – if you were in an elevator and bumped into someone important…someone who could offer you the chance of a lifetime…..could you explain yourself in the time it takes to go from the 2nd to the 5th floor? An “elevator speech” is a summary of what you want people to know about you and that can be delivered in less than 30 seconds. Make it upbeat and succinct: who you are, what you do, what you’re looking for. The hard part is being able to rattle off this little 3×5 bio of yourself and have it come off sincerely. You usually only get one chance in life so make it count. Practice speaking in front of a mirror. Or even in front of your dog. Your dog will always love you and won’t criticize you. On second thought maybe it’s not a good idea to use the canine.
Another key tool in networking is a Networking group. If you type in “professional networking” into your search engine (without the quotes) you’ll find not only great resources that speak about the art of networking, but also plenty of networking groups. Most are free to join. Two of my favorites are Linkedin.com (www.linkedin.com) and Ryze Networking (www.ryze.com). There are countless others, it just takes some digging.
So you met some cool folks and you’ve made some nice contacts. My parting words-of-wisdom are “Don’t abuse relationships” andremember the importance of saying “thank You.” Nothing can kill your networking circle quicker than bothering someone incessantly and saying “thank You” is just good old common courtesy when someone helps you out.
So go forth…network…and find out for yourself how great it is to know that not only do you know someone…but that someone also knows you!