Networking is about building and maintaining personal relationships in order to gain access to ideas, information, job opportunities, sales leads and support on projects. This is important because people with ‘good’ networks are much more successful in achieving their goals than people with ‘poor’ networks. There are a number of guidelines that can help us to understand the key points of networking, they include:
- Networks are for mutual gain
People in networks help each other, but when they do this they don’t expect something to be given in return immediately. Goodwill is created over time and the willingness to give assistance without any specific strings attached is as important as asking for a favour.
- Networks can be built on purpose
Developing a strong network means choosing what groups to be a part of and making the time to grow relationships in a systematic manner e.g. by calling people at regular intervals, by making a deliberate effort to attend conferences, meetings etc.
- Networks should be diverse
If everyone in your network is from the same background it is possible to become trapped by a specific way of thinking and so to fail to appreciate the value or importance of unfamiliar ideas or mindsets.
- Networks should be outward focused
That is, they should involve a number of different groups. E.g. if all the people that you spend time with are (say) within your own division then you may find it hard to change jobs if you decide to move on because of a lack of contacts within the corporation as a whole.
Assess the current situation
Reflect on your current approach to building and maintaining your network. Think about the four statements above. What do you consider your strengths and weaknesses to be? Think about what evidence you have to support this view.
Think about asking for feedback from those you work with. Decide what changes you want to make and set yourself a goal(s).
Baker, Wayne - Success Through Social Capital
Jossey Bass Wiley (2000).
Covers the ethics of networking, the core concepts, the process of analysing your current network and developing a plan for building networks.
RoAne, Susan - How To Work A Room
Harper Collins (2000).
This book covers conducting conversations in social situations, at conferences, at exhibitions, via email etc. in order to develop contacts.
Watch good networkers
Identify individuals in the organisation who you (and/or your line manager/mentor) consider to be skilled at networking. Observe what they do. How does what they do compare to what less effective people do? How does what you see relate to your approach?
‘Power Networking’ 59 Secrets For Personal And Professional Success
by Donna Fisher and Sandy Vilas
(4 cassette audio tape & also available as a paperback)
Tips on good networking e.g. how to introduce yourself to strangers, creating visibility through participation in professional bodies, how to ask for help etc.
Then - Most importantly
Go through the steps shown in the How to Use Our Tutorials page to really cement and develop what you've learned into a useful part of your business skill set.
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