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What is Networking?

 

Networking is about developing and nurturing contacts to obtain and give referrals, advice, information, support and energy.

Networking is variously defined as:

  • Small talk with a purpose
  • A communications process - an exchanging of information; receiving advice and referrals
  • Creating relationships whereby you can help other achieve their goals and which in turn helps you achieve yours
  • People connecting with people, linking ideas and resources
  • The systematic process of meeting people, learning about them, and establishing relationships so that all parties establish and expand a base of resources to support their endeavors
  • Establishing connections that are mutually satisfying, helpful, and uplifting

"Networking is a reciprocal process based on the exchange of ideas, advice, information, referrals, leads, and contacts where resources are shared and acknowledged. Networking enhances both personal and professional aspects of ones life and increases your power, position and influence and the quality of life."

Susan Roane
The Secrets of Savvy Networking

Approximately 70% of all jobs are found through networking and at least 50% of all positions are never advertised. People hire people they feel comfortable with - people they perceive as being "like us". "Like us" has as much to do with having acquaintances in common as having any real similarity between two people. Therefore, the best way for you to connect is by being introduced to you by mutual acquaintance. Most Americans, including you and your friends, have at least 250 contacts. This means that your network can grow exponentially.

The purpose of networking is to get face-to-face with the people who have the best potential of giving you the desired result. However as the world becomes smaller, it is important that you properly maintain your network. Do not rely on the traditional rules of networking which view everyone and every setting as an opportunity to network and puts emphasis on keeping records of people and staying in touch.

Tips for modern day networking:

  • View your network as part of your long term life success plan.
  • Pick people as members of your network who you can help as well as them being able to help you.
  • Build quality relationship with your network members.
  • Produce results for those in your network and let them know how they can produce results for you. It is a truism that if you give more than you receive, you will receive more than you need.

Basic Types of Networking

There are a number of basic types of networking activities:

  • Attending Networking Meetings
  • Activating Your Networks
  • Nurturing Your Networks
  • Networking Toward a Specific Goal

Attending networking meetings is an effective way for you to review old acquaintances, make new ones , and learn industry language and information in a field that you are interested in exploring.

Activating your networks is about cultivating and contacting family, friends, and business acquaintance to let them know that you are in transition and are exploring new opportunities. Obtain their ideas about people and opportunities to pursue. Your networks include:

  • Your Core Network of Family and Close Friends
  • Your Network of Friends and Acquaintances
  • Your Professional/ Business Network
  • The Network You Build as You Conduct Your Job Search

Nurturing your networks is keeping a network active by regular communications with contacts (every month or five weeks) and being a participating member of their networks.

Networking towards a specific goal is identifying target organizations and/or people and using your network, the networks of your friends, etc. to uncover a referral into the organizations you are targeting.

Preparation

Gather the contact information and meeting schedules of networking organizations. These are organizations with which you have an affiliation, including:

  • Alumni Organizations
  • Professional Associations
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Professional Networking Events
  • Trade Shows and Job Fairs
  • National and Regional Conferences and Conventions
  • Church or Synagogue Groups
  • Civic Groups
  • Your address book
  • Your Holiday card lists
  • Friends, neighbors, and associates
  • Customers, suppliers, vendors, clergy, medical personnel, stock brokers, etc.
  • Former associates (including all former employers)

Activate New Networks and Reactivate Dormant Networks

  • Make a reconnection call which reactivates a past active relationship
  • Make a call to follow through on something you promised to do
  • Call someone based on a referral or someone you just met
  • Make a call just to say "I'm thinking about you"
  • Make a call looking for some specific referral information - attorney, hairdresser, etc.
  • Call someone who could use some assistance from you - and offer it
  • Call to follow up on an interesting conversation at a recent networking event
  • Call and tell the person that you are taking a series of workshops and the leader said to think of someone you haven't talked to in years and which you had never gotten out of touch with - and their name popped into your mind

Nurture Your Network - Especially Your Inner Circle

  • Keep in touch 4 to 6 times a year
  • Send cards, e-mails, etc. when appropriate
  • Find articles of interest and send them to appropriate people
  • Set additional meetings
  • Arrange to meet at networking events
  • Be creative!
  • Learn how to work a room

One of the best ways to meet new people is to attend meetings of professional and business organizations in your target industry. Once you are there, you need to fully utilize the opportunity by "working" the room. Here are a number of tips for working a room to the maximum effect. They are presented in no particular order of importance.

  • Remember, others are there to meet people also, so don't be shy.
  • Carry your business cards in left jacket pocket, their business card in the right jacket pocket.
  • Make notes on their business cards so you can follow-up appropriately.
  • Look for people who are the center of a group and be sure you meet them at some point during the event.
  • Carry any glass in your left hand to avoid a cold, wet handshake.
  • Wear your nametag on your right lapel so people can see it when shaking hands.
  • Two people talking who are more that 24 inches apart and/or are not directly facing each other are open to a third person joining them.
  • Groups which have a gap in them are open to another person joining them.
  • When you join others who are already talking, wait for the speaker to acknowledge you and briefly introduce yourself.
  • Find someone else who is alone and introduce yourself.
  • If you are uncomfortable in a new group, bring a buddy - but separate when you get into the room. You are there to meet new people and get reacquainted with ones you haven't seen in awhile.
  • Sit at a table with as many strangers as possible.
  • Practice your self introduction (Your Career Marketing Statement - without the final sentence about what you are looking for - followed by questions about the person you are talking with).
  • Make sure you are up-to-date on industry/organization news.
  • Wear professional but comfortable shoes, you'll be standing in them a long time.

Learning How to Ask for a Referral

Why do people give referrals?

People give referrals to help you and/or to look good in the eyes of the employer to whom they refer you. Think about that in the job search process. If they let a friend or colleague know about a very valuable asset - you - they have done them a valuable favor. If they make the referral that gets you the job you want, the good feeling they get as a result is a great reward - as is having you as an ongoing part of their network

When do you ask for referrals?

Any time you have provided value to the person you are asking. The value you provide in an information meeting may be a referral that you give regarding a needed resource (printer, attorney roofer, etc.), a possible solution to a problem, a lead on a new customer, etc. Remember, an information meeting is a two way discussion, an exchange of ideas, and you are as likely to give value as you are to receive it.

A cardinal rule when you receive a referral is to give it the respect it deserves. It is imperative that you follow-up on all referrals and that you keep the person who gave the referrals aware of your actions and any results.

How do you ask for referrals?

First, wait until you can tell that the person you are talking with will be comfortable giving you a referral - some people take much longer to warm up than others. Second, ask in a way that helps the person know what you are looking for. You might ask them, "If you were in my position who do you feel it would be appropriate to talk to?" or, "What other industry leaders should I be talking to?" or, "Are there organization meetings I should be attending to meet appropriate people?"

It is helpful if you foreshadow your request for referrals. Foreshadowing is a technique used by writers when they plant an idea early in a story that becomes important later on. In this case, the foreshadowing takes place when you set the scene at the beginning of the meeting ("What I'd like to do in the fifteen or so minutes we will have together is tell you something about myself, learn something about you, and your organizations, get some advice and perhaps some referrals."). When you then make your request farther along in the meeting, it won't then be a surprise to them.

Following is a three-step approach to asking for referrals:

  1. Give the referral process the importance it deserves. Be sure you leave enough time and make sure your contact is aware of the importance referrals play in your job search process.
  2. Be clear that you are asking for their help; don't be too causal about it. People like to be helpful (think of all the people who have gone out of their way to give you directions, maybe even showing you the way). Give the person you are talking to the opportunity to feel good.
  3. Ask for the opportunity to explore who they know you should be talking to. Be ready to ask appropriate questions (see above) if they hesitate. This is also the perfect place to use your Top Ten List to give them ideas of possible contacts.

Once you have their referrals, you can increase your success rate by asking something like "Do you think Joe would be more comfortable if you let him know to expect my call?" This is less confrontational than asking "Would you be willing to call and let him know I'll be calling?" - and it works regardless of the answer.

Do not let your referral source pre-qualify or disqualify the names they give you. The best way to get the kind of referrals you want is by developing a profile of the kind of person you want to meet and sharing it with them. The combination of such a profile and your Top Ten List is unbeatable.

Assembling Your Tool Kit

  • Business Cards - You need a business card whether you are employed or not. Include accurate contact information; if you are not currently employed, include only your name.
  • A list of people who is work you respect to whom you can refer others. This might include everything from a good accountant to a good roofer or a good barber.
  • A Tracking System - one that works for you and includes at a minimum
  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone, fax, and email
  • Date of last contact
  • Date of next contact
  • How you know the person (personal friend, met at this meeting, etc.)
  • Who they have referred you to
  • Notes
  • Suit with Pockets - especially important for women (when have you seen a man's suit without pockets?)

Action

Networking is the key factor in your career marketing campaign. It is crucial that you quickly become active in the networking process. Attend networking events and make meaningful contacts with as many people as you can. Be loose and talk to people everywhere - both in and out of your business environment.

When you meet someone:

  • Give your Career Marketing Statement.
  • Take an interest in the other person by asking what he or she does.
  • Keep in touch with people. Networking requires that you systematically follow-up on leads, introductions and referrals.
  • Be flexible when asking for information, a referral, advice or moral support. Remember that the nature of your relationship with someone determines what you can ask and how often you can ask.
  • Make networking a lifestyle. Being an enthusiastic, good networker makes your life enjoyable. And the network you build during this process does not stop when you have reached your goal - it remains a critical element in your success throughout your working life.