There is much written and said about the power of networking for business and career development. In two posts this week I’d like to combine a bit of the theory of networking with what is turning out to be a very interesting and hopefully soon to be very successful networking campaign, which is a guest post by Paul Weston (@PaulWeston33 on twitter)

So today, first things first… a bit of theory

According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary Networking is defined as:

the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically : the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business

Now that fits very well with both my understanding and the popular definitions that are found on websites, in journals and other publications where I have looked.

Benefits of networking

In business the primary benefits of networking include:

  • Business development
  • Building strong relationships (new partners, customers, suppliers)
  • Developing and strengthening influence in their sector
  • Sharing ideas and problem solving
  • Raising awareness of the company

For people wishing to develop or enhance their career they are:

  • Developing a broader range of contacts
  • Access to “hidden” jobs market
  • Opening up new career/development opportunities
  • Develop and strengthen your influence

Where are your current networks?

There are a number of places that you can start looking at the network that you already have, look at the connections you have within your

  • Family and extended family
  • School/University class mates & alumni
  • Friends, their families and their friends
  • Former colleagues, customers, suppliers
  • Fellow members of groups, organizations, clubs, teams etc that you belong to
  • People at the school, groups, teams and organizations that you or your children or other family members belong to
  • Trade associations or professional bodies
  • Connections on social networking sites like LinkedIn, Plaxo, Xing, Twitter etc

I am sure if you do the analysis, you’ll be surprised at just how many people you already know and have access to.

Basics of networking, the what, who and how?

As the definition above suggests networking in about relationships, establishing, building and nurturing them. There is an addage that goes “It’s not what you know but who you know”, well in networking that is true to an extent. However, what is probably just as important as the who, is how many people do you know and how well do you know them (how good is your relationship with them)? It has to be a relationship as well, frequent interaction and contact and reciprocal actions; you will not get very far if the only time your contact hears from you is when you need to pump them for some information or a favour. Share information, do favours and make recommendations to your contacts; approach networking with a view to giving as well as receiving, you’ll develop better relationships and faster that way.
If you are trying to develop your business or find your next career move, you have an objective – Great. You need to be specific, set yourself goals. If you wanted a recommendation for a good restaurant, you’d ask your contacts for exactly that wouldn’t you. The same goes when you are networking for business or career, be specific about what you are trying to achieve.
Also, do not rely solely on the people you already know. You should expand and develop your network; make contact or meet new people, follow up with them, find ways of helping them and stay in touch with them.

Anyway, thats enough theory. In the second post this week, I’ll hand over to my special guest Paul Weston who is going to share his story of how he has used social media networking to search for new employment. Watch this space.