Networking and professional relationship building can be fun, easy and rewarding, both personally and professionally. Here are four relatively easy ways to bring meaning, value and productivity to your professional network. But watch out! If your not careful, you might actually start to enjoy yourself!
In order to maintain your network of contacts, you must stay in touch with them. One easy way to stay in touch with your existing contacts and make new contacts is by being active in your professional association and/or in civic groups in your community. Being active in your professional community keeps you in regular contact with your professional peers and gives you an opportunity outside of your job to develop these relationships and your reputation with these contacts and make new contacts in your field. Being active in a civic organization, non-profit association, church or other group provides you the opportunity to connect with others who share your personal interests and values apart from your job. These types of contacts can also be extremely valuable to you as you manage your career over time, consider changing careers, or are seeking an alternative opinion or point of view on a challenge you are facing. Just because someone is not in your field doesn’t mean they are not a valuable professional contact.
Not sure where to start? Check out our list of Professional Associations. Also, check out the student organizations registered on your college campus, as many professional associations have student chapters.
Professional networking sites like LinkedIn are growing at a very fast rate. Unlike Facebook and Google+, these sites are intended specifically for professional/business networking – they offer professionals with similar interests, backgrounds and skills the opportunity to connect online and exchange information, recommend peers, make referrals, discuss topics of professional interest, share job leads and offer/seek advice. Professional networking sites are a great complement to the personal networking necessary for a successful job search.
Help others when they ask for your assistance or advice
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you! Remember – genuine networking is about reciprocity. As business author and networking expert Bob Burg put it: “The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person’s needs ahead of their own.” When someone genuinely asks for your assistance and you believe you can help, offer your assistance. When you don’t believe you can help, let them know. Don’t leave them hanging. You wouldn’t want them to do that to you. Remember, “the currency of real networking is not greed but generosity” (Keith Ferrazzi, CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight and professional networking consultant).
How are you making a difference in the world; in your workplace, in your home, in your community; in the lives of your friends and colleagues? Are you making a difference? We all search for meaning, and each person has a different definition of what holds meaning (what is important) to them. Why do you do what you do? What advice do you have to share with others facing decisions you have had to make in the past? What might you do next? How are you going to get there? You have just as many answers as you have questions. Your answers and advice could really make a difference in someone’s career, just as the answers and advice you get will make a difference in yours.