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Networking - It Really Is Who You Know!

By Mark Johnson - Networking is not just for those who are externally focused and wanting more clients. Networking is just as important for those trying to make a difference and get ahead within their own organisation.

Sunday 28 March 2010

If operating my own business has taught me one valuable lesson itís the importance of networking. Now before the IT savvy get too excited Iím not talking about computer networks, LANís, WANísor any other IT Ďism that most others donít understand.  Iím talking about having a network of people you can go to for information, advice and help.

Networking is not just for those who are externally focused and wanting more clients.  Networking is just as important for those trying to make a difference and get ahead within their own organisation Ė  if you donít believe me, think about those people you know who were promoted and you thought didnít deserve it Ė maybe they were better connected, better known and better informed.  As you build your network you will also find that life and work becomes more interesting, easy and fun.  Youíll broaden your knowledge, have a greater appreciation for the complexities of your business, make better decisions, find clients easier and be able to contribute more.

So who should you network with? . . . . . Everyone!  Now Iím not suggesting you need to get to know 6.8 billion people (unless youíre going for some Facebook or Twitter record!) but the reality is that there are many people you donít yet know who may be a valuable asset to your personal / professional network.  Consider the people within your own organisationĖ senior and middle managers, personal assistants, store workers, records clerks, the CFO, strategists and IT folk, anyone you come into contact with or who provides you with information directly or indirectly.  Then of course there are those outside the organisation such as clients, suppliers and key service providers (accountants, lawyers etc).  Donít forget those in your professional association, institutes, alumni, sporting club, church group, school parents and friends association.  And remember to consider those people you went to school with or have worked with in other organisations.

Having said this, you must be careful with whom you network.  As you learn more about them you can determine their ethics and motives and if they are the sort of person you want in your network.  Another word of warning is not to spread yourself too thin Ė after all you have many commitments in life and can only do so much.

How to build your network

If youíre convinced that there is some value in building your network but youíre not sure where to start, you might consider the following:

  • Write down those people in your current network (internal and external to your business) and review how strong your connection is.  Do you need to build a stronger relationship?  How can you do this?
  • Join in conversations in the lunch room or office kitchen.
  • Take an interest in others.
  • Wear your company nametag at gatherings (no I donít mean your 4 year oldís birthday party!). It will help others remember your name even if you canít remember theirs.
  • Hold customer and stakeholder networking activities and help others build their network.
  • Donít be shy at gatherings.  Introduce yourself and say hi.  The other person may be just as uncomfortable as you.
  • Donít stay with the same group at a gathering, but also donít be tempted to meet everyone there.
  • Always have business cards with you.
  • Join an association covering a range of industries and attend their meetings and events regularly.
  • Be seen by making a presentation to a group or taking a role on a committee.
  • Join a volunteer association or sporting group.
  • Periodically contact people in your network to keep up with whatís happening or send them information they might find useful.
  • Donít rely solely on Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn or other networking tools to create your network.  They can be useful but are not a panacea.
  • Be ethical and donít gossip.

Importantly remember that networking is two-way.  Be sure you contribute and donít just take.  Robyn Henderson from Networking To Win says it well - Give without expecting and receive without forgetting.

You may also find Robyn Hendersonís website useful - http://networkingtowin.com.au/

For another approach to getting yourself known try Scott Ginsberg's site -   http://www.hellomynameisscott.com/landing.aspx


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