Networking: you get out of something what you put into it

Several years ago, I came across this quote by Charles L. Allen, “You can make more friends in a month by being interested in them than in ten years by trying to get them interested in you.”  How true I’ve found this to be!  Applying this principle in both our career and our personal lives can make all the difference.  Consider its use in developing relationships with loved ones as well as with bosses, clients and those you encounter during a job search or through your professional activities, especially while networking.

I really believe in networking, but I don’t think of networking as simply shaking hands, exchanging business cards, finding common points of interest and figuring out what you can get out of each other before moving on.  If you’re impassioned by what’s going on in your field, don’t just attend the local chapter meetings of the professional association or club – get involved. Volunteer to help. You’ve heard it said, “you get out of something what you put into it”.  It’s true.  Being active in an association can serve to improve your career skills at the same time as opening doors to possible opportunities.

If you are not especially comfortable on how to do make friends through networking, don’t stress – there are loads of great books on this topic.  In the 1990’s I looked to Terri Mandell, author of Power Schmoozing, as my networking guru.  Today, one of the most popular books on the subject and one that many of my colleagues like to recommend is Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz.  However, these are just a couple of resources.  There’s a ton out there on the internet as well – I plugged “business networking tips” into one search engine and got 13.8 million hits! 

Whatever your comfort level with networking, you really must add this activity to your job search or career advancement plan.  It’s true what they say – most people get their jobs through networking and/or referral.  I once knew a woman who never had to do a traditional interview process in her whole 15-year, 5-job career. Every move she made was either the result of being referred or recruited by a former boss.  Keep in mind, networking comes in many forms – you might meet people at an association luncheon, mix socially at a friend’s party, talk to family members about who and what they know, stay in touch with former business associates and managers or use professional/social networks on the internet such as LinkedIn. 

Even if you don’t get your best job ever from networking, just think of your networking encounters as a way to share ideas – share yourself.  It’s a way to give back, make friends, help others, and simply widen your circle of influence in the world. 

One last word of advice about using networking during a job search.  Remember networking is really a career-long activity and shouldn’t stop when you find a job.  Yes, I know how it goes… you get the new job, and then you get busy.  Before you know it, time has passed and those connections fade.  Well, in this day and age, it’s better to keep your contacts no matter how secure you feel in that new position! 

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