9/15/2008

Connecting with Connectors

Networking is one of the most important things you can do for your professional growth. As young children, we form clubs in our neighborhoods. We eagerly participate in organizations like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. By high school years, it is almost as if we are in a contest to see who can stay the busiest and be involved the most. We join these groups to make friends and be accepted among our peers. On many college students’ agenda is, not only is receiving a secondary education, but also, equally high in priority, is joining a fraternity or sorority. This pattern illustrates our norm for wanting to network, in the early days of our life, long before that first major career job.

As a career woman, I noticed many years ago the impact effective networking has on us in our business savvy development. It can help us establish credentials as a person of influence and build our list of references. In these days, where job security is obsolete, having contacts for pursuing career moves is essential. Without knowing an insider, your resume can easily be overlooked. We need to continually expand our base of contacts.

In addition, the diversity of individuals in our lives keeps us more interesting and informed. Tunnel vision is similar to ignorance. We need varying ways of seeing our world, exposure to opposing viewpoints and an education in other industries outside our career path. These contacts truly enrich us with that opportunity.

There are many different communication styles. Having worked in sales and marketing, I can attest to the importance of identifying these different types. Equally important is the ability to effectively communicate to varying styles. You can have a great message but if you can’t communicate, it is non productive. Ineffective communicators do not close sales, do not motivate others to donate to worthy causes and do not change perceptions. Actively working at being well connected can improve your adaptability to relating to others. This is a major asset professionally.

Just attending a networking event is not enough. Like most things in life, you get out what you put in. Results are based on performance. Thus, if you join a networking club and do nothing but sit on the sidelines, you cannot begrudge the organization for not putting you in contact with others. They can merely provide the forum; the rest is up to you. Get involved, be a participant at some level. These organizations benefit our communities.

A networking group can be the starting foundation for some of the best friendships and lasting business relationships you will make. Some of my closest friends, and best allies in the business world, are individuals I met at a networking meeting. Take the time to do more than throw a business card in someone’s hand, shake a hand first! Ask a few questions to show interest. And, be selective. Do not join every club in town and then be spread so thin you gain a reputation for never knowing your limits. Quality relationships are much more beneficial than quantity. Your choices in networking groups make a statement about you. Make sure it is the statement you want expressed!
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