Thursday, February 4, 2010

Are You Really "Networking"?

Today it seems we’re all “networking” all the time. Whether you’re on LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or another social networking site, you’ve entered your identity into an online forum because you hope to connect with other human beings. These sites can be fantastic ways to renew friendships, build business, find jobs after graduation, further your career, or espouse your point of view, but having a login to any of these accounts does not make you successful at networking.

What is Networking?

The term “networking” has become popular and is used throughout the business world. Unfortunately, it gives itself a bad name. What networking is really all about is building good relationships.

Build Industry-Specific Relationships: Good networkers may know hundreds of people, but do they have to? No. Networking isn’t about how many people you connect to on LinkedIn or how many friends you have on Facebook. It’s not how many people you know, but how strong your relationships are with the right people. Let’s say you’re looking for a job, should you be networking with friends and family? Absolutely. Opportunities can originate from anywhere. However, wouldn’t your chances be better if you’ve also developed relationships with people in your field? If you are on a finance job search but most of your personal friends work in retail sales jobs, you’re going to want to steer most of your career communication efforts in a different direction. Graduating students should keep in touch with classmates and professors in their major and join industry organizations. Volunteering and interning are also great ways to build relationships.

Create Real Relationships: People often think of networking as schmoozing --that is, connecting with others for your own benefit without any real interest in the other person. While we’ve all seen examples of successful schmoozing, you should avoid doing it at all costs. The results are short-term and can often backfire. Do you want to be schmoozed? No. No one does. You feel like you’ve been taken, used, suckered. Are you more than happy to help someone you genuinely like? Of course. All relationships are about give and take and the giving part is actually easier and more satisfying (try it)! If you want to network successfully, be genuine, find shared interests. Also, remember that online social networking (approving someone’s connection request) isn’t real networking. It can be part of it, but simply getting access to someone’s site isn’t a true relationship anymore than handing someone a business card would be. Take and show an interest in the other person. Networking isn’t about you….it’s about them.

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