Networking is about building meaningful relationships, and it is key to professional (and personal) success.
It is a career development skill, which should be embraced throughout all phases of your life and profession, not just when you are looking for your next job. Whether you are still in school or college, building up your experience in your first job, in the midst of a thriving career, or exploring new job opportunities, the connections you have and how you manage your relationships should be part of every aspect of your life.
For some people, networking is a day to day activity, such as for those who work in sales or business development. For others, networking may not be as evident, but it is just as important.
Networking is about developing optimum relationships with your professional and personal contacts.
Professional contacts may include:
Current and former work colleagues
School classmates and alumni
Professors or teachers
Personal contacts may include:
Parents in your kids’ school
People from your gym
Members from your religious congregation
Members from your community organizations
Successful networking can be described with three conditions.
#1 - Successful networking brings value to both parties.
Networking is about building relationships that bring benefits to each person involved. Through a successful networking relationship, each person should be better-off connecting with each other. For example, you can bring value to someone by offering your guidance on your subject of expertise or introducing a contact within your circle, and in exchange, the other person may give you a recommendation or offer a tip which will help you on your next role or venture.
#2 - Successful networking is authentic and genuine.
People pick up when you are not yourself, and it also serves as a repellent and barrier to trust. There is no need to be anyone other than yourself with your professional and personal connections. Some people have the misconception that networking relationships are fake, vain, or artificial. This is not so. Networking is about being yourself and being genuine with what you can bring to the relationship.
#3 - Successful networking is constant and exponential.
Once you connect with someone and establish synergy, keep up the momentum with constant follow-ups. How often you follow up, and what type of follow up you execute can vary depending on the relationship, but it should be on par with how you want to establish the relationship with your contact. For example, you can follow up weekly, monthly, or a few times a year by meeting up in person for coffee, or exchanging stories and updates over the phone, email, text, or social media.
The above three conditions are interdependent, and all three conditions together will deepen your relationships with your network, yielding you to opportunities in every aspect of your life.