By definition, networking is the practice of building and maintaining relationships, especially with others whose friendship could bring advantages such as a new job, professional or business opportunities. Though not a physical material, networking is a key aspect of building your brand.
The most common networking these days is not just conducted through personal encounters, but with online social media.
Outside of branding yourself and providing valuable service, having a strong personal and professional network, perhaps more than any other factor, often is the difference that allows individuals to remain nearly consistently employed and have access to the most desired opportunities.
To establish a strong, thriving network you must nurture it. You must take the initiative to reach out and maintain regular contact. Don’t just make professional acquaintances. Make friends. Get interested in others; actively engage them and learn what they do, how they do it, what their plans are, and what they are interested in or what drives them.
If you learn they are looking for something – new job, assistance on a project, or for a resource of some kind – offer them your time, assistance or referral. Get involved with their life. Get to know your connections well enough to be able to share items that would be of interest to them. Squandering your network and resources are not what establishing those connections are about. Using your network to help others will pay dividends tenfold for you in the future.
And, do what you say you will do. Keep your word and your commitments. Set an example of how you want others to see you and to treat you. Treat everyone with personal attention, dignity and respect. Be grateful for assistance and referrals given to you, making sure you personally thank the individual who helped you.
Also, think long-term. Building long-term connections is like savings in a bank – if you stay actively connected, they will be there for you for years to come.
We are often approached by candidates who have recently separated from a long-term position they have held for many years. Having been committed to their work they didn’t think about their personal future; perhaps suddenly finding themselves unemployed. They have skills and a resume, but have never taken the opportunity to build a professional network that would be an invaluable resource or a tremendous assistance to them if they needed to find another position some day
Take the initiative and communicate with your connections. Meet with them, attend professional events and be engaging. Jump into online forums and discussions; offer your professional insight and expertise. Be proactive by building your network relationships in advance so when you are ready to make a career move you will have a strong network in place to help you land that new job when you need it. Additionally, having a strong network ensures you also are exposed to potential opportunities you never knew might have existed.