The Value of Your NetworkPosted: November 20, 2013
“The mark of a good conversationalist is not that you can talk a lot. The mark is that you can get others to talk a lot.Thus, good schmoozer’s are good listeners, not good talkers.” Guy Kawasaki
As many of you know, I got my current position through good old-fashioned networking. And building my network took (and still takes!) time, consistency and effort. I consider my network to be one of my most valuable assets. I can rely on it to help me get questions answered, develop professionally, provide me with ways to expand my skills and to offer a friendly ear to hear about my challenges. I have known many networkers (and some so-called networkers) over the years and I have gleaned some best practices for networking. These have surely helped me.
We all need to tend to and build our networks. Our network can be one of the few consistencies we have in our career even as it grows and changes. I think of my network as a garden. Even when you aren’t growing things, you still need to care for the soil so that when growing season starts you are ready to go. The same goes for a network – you have to have the infrastructure built before you actually need it. Your network should include a broad spectrum of contacts from both inside and outside your field as well as inside and outside your company. This way you can identify areas of development to help you and your company get to the next level. I call on my internal network for consistency within our walls and my external network for best practices and ideas to enhance our business.
The toughest part of building our network can be stepping out of our comfort zone and meeting new people (or learning more about those you already know). Here are some things I keep in mind as I continue to expand and develop my network.
Be Seen. I belong to several organizations inside and outside our business and make every effort to attend meetings and events. While I have a busy schedule, I put these events on my calendar and make arrangements to attend as many events as I can. I find it really important to get out there and be seen. This can show others you are committed to the organization and your own development and it is a great way to build bonds with others.
Be Heard. I strive to meet someone new or learn something new about someone I already know as often as I can. When I go to meetings and events and have the chance to network, I start with the people near me and see where it goes. I have found that many people at events are a bit anxious about meeting new people (and I get this way, too) and a great way to stop that feeling is to start chatting. It is amazing what you can learn! Another way to get heard is to volunteer with professional organizations. Serving on a board or committee can get your seen and heard. Just make time for it – everyone is busy.
Be Sincere. I feel that the goal of networking is to offer your skills and abilities to others and help them develop and, as we all know, when someone succeeds they usually remember those who helped them get there. When meeting someone new, let them know how you can help them by offering your skills, abilities and knowledge. Remember to be genuine and be yourself.
Think Globally. I have connected with people from other companies, industries and geographies. This helps me keep a global perspective while working in South Florida. And keeping this global perspective has gained me relationships outside of my comfort zone. Keep an open mind when meeting people – every one has something to offer. I have a nice network in Egypt that I met at the SHRM Leadership conference in 2009 and still chat with them regularly. How cool is it to know HR professionals in EGYPT?! We just need to listen to them. Oh and be that person who goes up and introduces yourself to the person standing alone. You never know who you will meet!
And Don’t Forget. Don’t forget about your network. We all get busy and life gets in the way, but find a way to engage your network. Before I had networking hardwired into my psyche, I populated my calendar to make sure I sent Tweets, did LinkedIn posts and wrote blogs. It took some time but now it is second nature, the key is to keep the conversation going and others will listen.
The time to build a network is when you don’t need it. Then when you do need it, your connections are there to support you. I know many people who are great networkers and those that aren’t have an opportunity to become great networkers. The satisfaction in knowing that I can email or call someone to get answers to almost anything helps reduce my stress, provides me with support system and allows me freedom to help others. We are all in this together; why not help each other out?
Last night, I attended the Greater Miami Society for Human Resource Management (GMSHRM) meeting at FIU and had a great time. I made it a point to meet 2 new people – and I did within the first 20 minutes of being there. One was someone who I was wanting to meet and the other became a connection that I hope to retain indefinitely. I got home and immediately connected with them on LinkedIn and added them to my network.
What networking success stories do you have?
Don’t forget to CELEBRATE!