Definition of NETWORKING
1. : the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business (source: Merriam-Webster)
Why is it that a simple word sends shivers down most people’s spines? I have encountered a few that actually live for networking and sing its praises from the roof tops. But others…not so much. We must stop thinking of networking as a necessary evil but as a vital part of our personal and professional brand-building. I am fond of saying your network is your net worth and I made it known at last week’s Social Media Week’s Advancing Women: Leadership in Social (along with other tips on collaboration, self-care, and how we must stay “always learning”).
— Barbara DiGangi (@BarbaraDiGangi) February 23, 2016
Your network IS your net worth! Well said! @AliahPR
— Teresa Alessandro (@Teapot113) February 23, 2016
Most of the time we are networking and we don’t even realize it. Our network is full of people we see each and every day–our friends, our family, our co-workers, business associates, etc. So yes, you are engaging in that “necessary evil” and are quite unaware of it. You can get the success you want from tapping into people you already know–and already have genuine relationships with. But that’s enough…we all need to broaden our reach.
Start by networking in places you feel comfortable in–do you volunteer or want to volunteer? Find organizations you want to become active in and expand your network while you volunteer for a worthy cause. I have also learned to visit quite a few professional and personal interest groups (via Meetup.com and LinkedIn) before I felt comfortable in joining and expanding my network through these groups. My network is growing through these in-person meetings but also by using social networks. Ever have a laugh, a great recommendation, or a deal come from a tweet or in your Instagram DMs? This.is.the.best.feeling.ever.
I have found that I actually enjoy networking though honestly I’m always a bit nervous. Once the nerves subside, I start genuinely interacting with interesting people. I enjoy the follow-up and seeing how we can develop a mutual beneficially relationship moving forward. Networking is meaningless without following up and seeing how you can benefit the other person–not just shamelessly promoting yourself, your clients, your events, etc.
If you are looking for a new job, funding, or new clients, networking is a surefire way to make valid connections with people that can help by garnering support, finding leads, and gathering information. Whatever your reason for networking, you can fulfill you personal and professional goals through genuine relationship-building and trust. Get out there and increase your net worth!