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Networking is an important part of professional life – it’s how you build useful relationships, extend your influence, and gain information outside of your line. So how do you do it?
I want to ask this question to find out if there is a ‘best’ way of networking, irrespective of personality type. I must admit I ask this question with the suspicion that there isn’t. Networking is one of the most important activities anyone can do in their professional life, particularly in the modern world of flatter structures and less supervision. Networking gives you a way of receiving feedback on your performance outside of your line, and it provides opportunities for problem-solving in ways you can’t bring your own organization to bear. Networking also increases confidence and general well-being. Those that don’t network don’t succeed.
My personal preference for networking is to build solid personal relationships based on rapport and friendship. These relationships tend to last and are the most fruitful. But this takes time! I tend not to go to networking events as I find that conversations there tend to be very superficial. Occasionally I will meet someone of real interest but I’ve never had much success in building contacts through them. However, a lot of people do and is very successful for them; it must be my personality!
Next, social networking. I have had great success from LinkedIn as a social networking tool as it has a great balance between openness and quality. Facebook and Myspace are just too open for my liking, although I do use them occasionally. What I like about LinkedIn is that I can reach thousands of people globally, and I can select new contacts based on profile and industry. Occasionally I meet someone who is exceptional who fits a profile I’m looking for to conduct an interview with or get an expert opinion. One way of casting my net wide is to use LinkedIn answers and see who responds to a well crafted question. OK, this totally lacks the personal touch, until you invite someone to meet one on one, which I do to great success.
I think the best way of networking is to be open and friendly and take every opportunity to meet new people. I have recently become much more active in my community and I have met a diverse array of people. It’s been an eye-opener to see how this network can create so many opportunities, from gaining big discounts off stuff to invites to music concerts. Most of these people are professionals and successful ones at that. The greatest benefit of all in building a network this way is if I decide to move on from my current job I’ll have a bunch of guys to call to see if they know of anything interesting. And here is the fact:
If you network in an unusual way, tell us by adding your comment!