Whether it is building our LinkedIn Contacts or Followers on Twitter, gathering Friends on Facebook or Yammering with our fellow work teams, the buzz of “networking” is always present. Networking comes naturally for some people, but not-so-much for others. So big deal, you say. Why is networking so important anyway?
From a personal perspective, networking builds new relationships through which you can share information, answer questions, and make new connections. People in your network become the portals to knowledge, opportunity, and information you might not find on your own. From the business perspective, however, networking isn’t only helpful, it is mandatory. Business networking not only brings new business and new talent, but it supports collaboration – whether it’s collaborating with internal team members or making connections outside of the organization. Once you’ve established a business connection, you’ve set the foundation for sharing a multitude of resources ranging from best practices to collaborating on joint ventures and projects. Your business networks can be your most valuable resources!
So how do you build your network? Start meeting more people. In Malcom Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point, Gladwell introduces several influential personality types, one of which is the Connector – an individual who knows large numbers of people and is in the habit of making introductions. These people hold the secret to effective networking – it’s not all about you; it’s about all of you. Having a network of diverse people in a variety of environments gives you more opportunities to leverage the power of your network and the power of the people in it.
Helpful Tips for “Natural” Networkers
- Try strengthening your existing network by making more connections. Ask people to introduce you to more people, and seek to find common ground in each new relationship you find.
- Keep contact information updated – yours and those in your network. Alert people when you change your contact information, and be sure to keep your contacts current. Make it as easy for them to find you as it is for you to find them.
- Continue to grow and develop your network along with your own personal growth and development. Reach out to your network and let them support you. Think of your network as your own personal cheering section!
Helpful Tips for “Growing” Networkers
- Try attending more events, which forces you to meet new people. Make a point to meet at least three new people at every event or function you attend.
- When you meet someone for the first time, exchange business cards or contact information, and send them a quick “nice to meet you” note as soon as possible. This is not only a polite gesture, but it establishes a more permanent way to contact each other (i.e. Outlook, address book, contact list).
- Stay connected to your Connectors! They will remain a valuable resource for you as you build and expand your own personal network.
What are some ways in which you build and support your network? What are your favorite tips and tools?