Networking Strategies to Thrive in a Tough Economy

Networking Strategies to Thrive in a Tough Economy

You have heard it said over and over again: “It’s not what you know but who you know that makes the difference.” This unknown proverb has become the wisdom of the ages, passed down from mentors, parents, coaches, and career counselors.

Networking is important and critical for success. Whether you are an artist, entrepreneur, student, leader, or professional, strong networking skills will eventually pay off. Opportunities multiply when you have a reliable and diverse network of friends and colleagues.

Technology, social media in particular, has allowed introverted types to interact socially with more confidence. Social networking websites have given users access to see and connect with others that they would have not been able to connect otherwise.


What networking is:
In his book, Endless Referrals, Bob Burg, provides my favorite definition of networking: “I like to define networking as cultivating mutually beneficial, give-and-take, win-win relationships… The end result may be to develop a large and diverse group of people who will gladly and continually refer a lot of business to us, while we do the same for them.” I have little to add to Burg’s words, except that networking is more about other people than it is about you. Networking is about relating and filling someone else’s need(s).

What networking is not:
Networking is not about popularity. Some people believe (or have been convinced by internet marketers and even consultants) that a high count of fans or followers will bring business knocking at the door.  Let me say it in another way: online favoritism (“I likes” and “retweets” will not get you that job you are targeting.

I have learned a lot from Seth Godin over the years. In a recent interview at the AMEX OPEN Forum, Godin was asked how social networking can benefit businesses. He ranted that networking is not about keeping score by adding a bunch of people on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and/or LinkedIn: “Networking is always important when it’s real. And it’s always a useless distraction when it’s fake.” What makes it real? Try engaging and doing something for someone else.

We can agree that social networking has revolutionized the web and continues to provide dozens of accessible and effective marketing tools for small and large businesses. It has also helped us reconnect with long-lost friends from school, college, and past co-workers.

Yet connecting with people online doesn’t just transfer into business. A valuable exchange needs to happen; an exchange of information, knowledge, and/or resources between two parties. That’s the first secret to successful networking.

What makes networking successful?
Successful networkers take other people’s needs seriously. They know the value of giving and receiving. They are not afraid to give and receive nothing in return.

Successful networkers actively involve others. It is important to let your network know what company hired you, laid you off, and what type of job/business you are looking for. Let your network know how they can help. Don’t be afraid to ask for advise, feedback, and/or referrals.

Successful networkers inform proactively. Let your network know what you are doing professionally and what your core strengths are. Share your professional development with others, such as, the experiences you have recently accumulated and what you are currently learning. Share your notes or insights from a recent conference or seminar. Let your network know if you are considering, starting, or finishing grad-school or obtaining a professional certification. Keep them in the loop if taking up a new hobby or learning a new skill, such as cooking, dancing, or learning a new language.

Let your network know your contact info and when it’s best to get in touch with you. Be clear when communicating who you are and who you are not. What can you do for them? For their business? For their organization? Team? Community? Emphasize what makes you truly unique and valuable.

In closing, invite your network into your life and make yourself available. And remember, next time you attend a networking event, put on your helper hat!

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