Networking: Building Bridges Before You Need Them

It seems fairly easy to connect with people, right? According to the founder of The Business Network International, Ivan Misner, “Networking is simple--but it's not easy. If it was easy, everyone would do it, and do it well. But they don't. That's because it's a skill, like cooking and golf and carpentry, that takes knowledge, practice, commitment, and effort to learn and apply consistently.” He adds

“You can't just go out to the golf course, buy a club and a ball, whack the ball around a bit, and think you've played a round of golf. Neither can you walk unprepared into a gathering of potential networking contacts and suddenly become a competent networker--no matter how gregarious and sociable you are or how many books on networking you've read”.

The process of connecting with people takes a significant amount of time and effort from both parties. It is extremely important to understand that networking is not only based on connecting with people in social media platforms, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Besides the effort applied to keep in touch with your connection, the core of these relationships is focused on the share of information and interests.

Frequently, people invest their time in networking exclusively when they need assistance. Such attitudes can bring negative effects to the image of the business and the individual. It is necessary to understand that, building good networking is not about establishing relationships driven simply by interest. There should be an exchange of information and knowledge, as this mutual assistance is what brings real benefits to professionals with a good network of contacts.

When talking about "networking", quality is more important than quantity. In order to develop a solid network of professional relationships, it is necessary to focus on the ones in whom you see the potential for future relationships, whether as a customer, supplier, business partner, or employee. If used well, with ethics and values, this important tool is able to build a positive reputation for companies and individuals.

Anne Baker, a current Legislative Correspondent at Capitol Hill, is a great example of a successful networker. Baker started her professional career at RealNetworks, a software company, as an Administrative Assistant. Her outstanding performance in the company, helped her to become well-known in the technology market. Even after leaving RealNetworks, Baker maintained connections with her colleagues. After a couple of years, Baker was contacted by one of her former colleagues, receiving an offer letter to work as a Legislative Correspondent at Capitol Hill.

How about you? What have you done today in order to improve your networking?

If you're interested in some tips, check out our posts "4 Tips for Making a Valuable Connection" and "The Power of Asking Questions", plus "How to Create Conversation from a Cold LinkedIn Connection Request."