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Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why of Networking

By Robyn Greenspan

Do you recognize any of these excuses that prevent you from forging valuable connections with others?

"I don’t know who to network with."
"I don’t know what to say."
"I don’t know where to network."
"I don’t know when the right time is to network."
"I don’t know how to network."
"I don’t know why I should be networking."

Whether you’re a reluctant networker or someone who wants to improve your connection skills, here are tips to counter all your resistance points, enabling you to find the opportunity with anyone anytime and anywhere.

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Who

Network with almost everyone because you never know where "the connection" will happen or who will be "the link" to that connection.

Focus on people who work in your field (or your target field), people who work for one of your target employers, and/or in your target location.  Find these people through your local newspaper, discussions with your neighbors and people in line at the grocery store or movie theater, or Corporate Alumni Group Directory, your college or high school alumni groups, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google.

If you are not comfortable networking on your own behalf, you can break the ice by introducing others, instantly doubling the number of people you’ll touch in a single interaction.

If the spirit of networking is to give first and expect results later, facilitating a connection that is mutually beneficial to others makes a standout impression. Being at the center of successful relationships you’ve brokered reflects positively and will always prove rewarding.

When you’ve identified someone you’d like to meet, reach out to your network, and let them know why you’d like the introduction. Your connections are more likely to go the extra mile to get you closer to a target if they understand the reason for the request.

What

Whether it’s an in-person meeting or online outreach, it’s important to have a plan that brings you closer to your goals. You’ll maximize your time if you pick your meetings and activities more strategically than haphazardly. A series of questions can help you refine your networking objectives:

  • What are you trying to accomplish right now?
  • What kind of people do you most need to meet to help you with that?
  • Do you need to meet a lot of new people — strangers — or do you need to build stronger relationships with the people you know to help drive more referrals?
  • Do you need to focus more on building trust and knowledge of your character or on your professional reputation as an expert in your field?

Be equally prepared with what you can offer, as you are with what you want to achieve for yourself.

Where

While networking can be approached as a strategic and deliberate activity, value can also be derived from random, spontaneous interactions with others, particularly during those mundane, everyday life-maintenance tasks. There are countless success stories of meaningful relationships created in waiting rooms, on planes, jury duty, at the car wash, etc.

One entrepreneur always carries her laptop and uses her time waiting at the chiropractor’s office to demo her online product, enabling other patients to act as a mini-focus group. She also frequently works at a local coffee shop and has picked up clients just by being friendly.

Even if there is not a professional benefit, engaging others helps the time pass more quickly in typically boring situations.

When

People often complain they don’t have the time to network, but that’s a poor excuse. When "networking" is considered another career-building or professional development activity and not something forced, it can feel more natural and occur at any time.

Others feel more comfortable when they incorporate one thing to improve connections among routine tasks: Find someone new to meet or pass along information to a contact as you read your morning news and blogs; make a referral or introduction as you wind down your work day; locate a networking event when you make business travel plans to another city, etc.

How

Whether you are managing thousands of connections or a handful that you are hoping to expand, technology is going to play a role in your interactions. But with all the tools available, it’s important to quantify the ROI. Too often, technology – social media, online communities and the extensive profile databases in particular – becomes a time-suck of constant clicking, feeding curiosity instead of fulfilling a goal.

Identify first what you want to achieve, the best pathways to get there and the time commitment for each activity. If you want to connect with CMOs, is it better to travel to an event where you could interact with many of them face-to-face or spend time writing an article for a targeted online publication where you could potentially attract contacts?

Why

If you've read this far and are still wondering why you should network, go back to the beginning of the article and start again. And then read much of the other material on Job-Hunt, too.

Unfortunately, networking is often driven by necessity – "needworking" – and is less effective than when spurred by helping. Simply begin by listening to what others need, find ways to connect them to the people and information they value, and organically, your network will begin to flourish.

In addition to the corporate karma you’ll develop when you help others achieve their goals, there’s a self-serving benefit too: Executives credit networking as their most successful activity for creating career opportunities, outpacing responding to job postings and creating online profiles. Furthermore, search firm and corporate recruiters identify most of their prospects through networking.

Bottom Line

No more excuses! Begin today!


About the author...

Robyn Greenspan was the editor-in-chief at ExecuNet, the private membership that helps executives shift their careers and daily business lives forward. Robyn also brings daily insight to ExecuNet’s public blog, Executive Insider, which enables senior-level professionals to make better career, business and leadership decisions. Catch Robyn's contributions on the HuffingtonPost.  And follow @ExecuNet on Twitter for information on executive market and hiring trends and follow @RobynGreenspan on Twitter.


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Guide to Job Search Networking:

Getting Started with Your Networking:

Finding Your Network:

Networking for Networking Haters:

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Networking into the Hidden Job Market:

Proactive Job Search:

Advanced Networking Tips:

Job Search Networking Tools:

Related Information:


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