I am not an expert, guru, or master of networking, I simply love making connections. Whether it’s matching people to jobs, a colleague to a colleague, or providing people with information or resources, I truly enjoy building relationships. And any time I have an opportunity to help others expand their network, I will.
But what is networking and why is it so important? In her book Connecting, Sarah Vander Zanden states:
Getting to know people socially is fundamental to creating memorable connections and developing the trust required to collaborate professionally. It takes preparation and practice to network productively. You’ll recognize your success when you’ve generated a broad community of professionally supportive relationships and potential alliances.
Simply stated, networking is about making connections. I firmly believe it is important because it helps you diversify your knowledge and experiences and can foster your personal and professional development.
If you want more detail than that, there are volumes of books, articles, programs and blog posts available for the student in you. Warning: There will be a ton of hints, tricks and tips to get you started, but understand there isn’t a magic formula for creating a network. You have to do what works best for you. So, in lieu of doing that painstaking research, here’s what has worked for me as I have built my very own posse.
Actions That Work For Me
- Get Involved: Several years ago I started volunteering with my local SHRM chapter. I joined the volunteer ranks as a committee member helping to plan local industry events. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to be appointed to leadership roles and work on the Board of Directors. Through these activities, I’ve been able to interact with other HR professionals both locally and nationally
- Be a Resource for Others: Answering questions for friends and family about how things in my industry work, where they can go to find information or introducing them to other practitioners is a big part of what I do. In addition to this I participate in online discussions via LinkedIn and Twitter providing advice and recommendations
- Attend Industry Events: I attend recruiting or HR events to find out what other people and companies are doing. I want to know what’s going on outside the four walls of my company
- Follow Up: After an event or meeting, I follow-up with a personal email or an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. (No generic LinkedIn requests. Please and Thank You.) The follow up can also be an invitation to continue conversations over coffee or lunch!
- Outreach: I seek out others who are doing or saying something I want to know more about. I also seek input and feedback from my cohorts – “You’ve done this before, what worked well?” or “I’m working on a presentation, what do you think about….?”
- Be Organized: When I get a business card I make notes on it indicating where I met the individual, when, and a word or two about our conversation. This helps me with my personal follow up messages as well as identifies who I can reach out to for various things.
- Follow Through: If I say I’m going to do something, I do it
For those of you doing these types of activities, awesome! For those that are a little less networked, I challenge you to select an action and take it for a test drive. You’ll be glad you did. Through the activities above, I’ve created my own personal alliance, a pool of “go-to” people, those on whom I can rely when I have a question, need feedback or merely want to talk shop. Priceless.
While there is no law governing how to build your network, I do have some rules….
My (Unofficial) Rules of Networking
- You get out of it what you put into it.
- Have a network before you need it! Just like walking across a bridge as you’re constructing it is difficult, trying to get information or a job out of a network as you build it is too
- It’s not about knowing as many people as possible; it’s about knowing the right people
As with any relationship, there is give and take with networking. Your network is not a rotisserie oven; you can’t just set it and forget it. If you value it at all, you have to work to keep it going!
Don’t just work it, network it.