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I have written about networking in the past ... the last time was an article called 10 Tips for Networking in Today's World. Today I read a decent article in BNet called Three Big Lies About Networking, which is more good advice about how to network, and some myths about networking.
Given that there is a lot written about "How To" network, I thought it was worth talking a little about the "Why" because I think (a) some people just do it because they think they should, (b) others don't do it when they should and (c) some do it for all the wrong reasons, and with unreasonable expectations.
Here is my theory ... networking is a way to build out your contacts such that, potentially, at some point, those contacts might be able to help you.
I work in the staffing industry so our recruiters need to network so they can build out a strong set of contacts willing to work with them, our sales people need to network with potential clients and hiring managers. Beyond the staffing industry (or any industry0 benefits when the leaders network and work together to raise the professionalism across the whole industry.
I believe that when networking it should be (a) with a long term view, and very few "short term" expectations; (b) with the expectation that we will be "giving" more than "receiving" for some time; (c) the new "contacts" we meet just might move up our hierarchy of relationships (from acquaintance, through various levels to potentially close friend) over a long period of time ... so treat them accordingly.
Business networking is just that, a BUSINESS activity ... so it should be done professionally. As a relationship does "deepen" it moves to a more personal level, but there should always remain that "professional" aspect to it if there are to be business dealings too.
I am very turned off by people that are too pushy in trying to network with me ... they have very overt "needs" and it is clear they want something from me. I would suggest that any networking should be low key, non-threatening and certainly not with a view to "getting something" ... if anything it should be with the expectation of "giving something".
So ... why should you network when (a) it is hard work (b) you have no expectations of anything (c) you may actually be expected to give something?
1. Think of it as planting seeds ... it is a rewarding exercise that results in something growing, in this case a relationship.
2. We all need friends, close friends or even acquaintances are much easier to deal with than strangers. So, even if we expect nothing there is always something in it for us.
3. Giving is the one sure way to success ... those who give selflessly will be rewarded. I say this a lot, and the only way people understand it is if they are already sold on the concept ... which means they have to sell themselves.
Networking is about business, but people like to "do business" with people they like ... so go find some new friends and see what happens to your business. Just understand that planting seeds takes effort and patience before you see results.
Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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