Monday, May 19, 2008

Networking Nuances

Every day businesspeople are presented with opportunities to network.

How would you rate your networking skills?

Do you cling to the wall like static electricity when you’re at a cocktail reception? Or, do you confidently move about the room, meeting and greeting new people?

Successful networkers have the ability to enter a room where they don’t know anyone, and make beneficial contacts before they leave.

The contacts you make at networking events can open doors for you throughout your career.

If you feel nervous about the idea of networking, consider this: You have already been doing it all your life, without stopping to think about it.

Everyone you have ever met is part of a network you have already constructed, and it is larger than you think. It is made up of all your friends, neighbors, social club or sports team members, your doctors, dentist, banker, your accountant and religious leader, as well as any current and former co-workers, customers and competitors. A surprising number of people are part of your personal network.

There are opportunities to network all around you, even in places you would least expect. You simply have to train yourself to channel your networking efforts into furthering your professional goals.

Always keep your eyes open for networking occasions.

Here are some opportunities for networking within an organization:

•Sporting events. If your company has any, join in. It doesn’t matter at all if you aren’t a pro. Learn as much as you can about the activity, arrive equipped, and have fun!

•Lunch. This is a great time to get to know your colleagues on a more relaxed, informal basis. Don't eat alone at your desk; if you do, you are relinquishing a good opportunity to network. Besides, everybody needs an occasional break from the office.

•Look beyond your own position or department. Volunteer to assist with company-wide events or activities. This is a great way to demonstrate your versatility and your team spirit.

•Be a volunteer. Become involved with a charitable organization or cause in your community. Donate your time, not just money. The good feeling you will get from helping others will be an extra bonus.

•Join organizations and participate actively. Naturally, it is important to join professional or trade organizations related to your career. But there are many other good opportunities as well, such as participating in programs given by your local Chamber of Commerce, or running for a place on the school board. There are social groups and groups that form around a specific interest, such as investment groups, book clubs and photography clubs. Speak up at meetings, serve on committees and attend the events.

Revisit my blog over the next few weeks, when I’ll explain more networking strategies, and how to really work a room.

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