By Carleen Wong, CPIM
Networking has been around forever. It is one of the best ways
to create new business contacts, gain information, find new job
leads, solve problems, and gain access to mentors.
Building and nurturing a personal network is a vital part of
your professional and career development strategy. Networking
is the process of developing relationships and friendships that
lead to things you want. It's not a one-off process, such as to
quickly find a job. Rather, you are building a trusting, individual
relationship for the long term, so that when you need help in
the future, you can turn to your network for ideas and support,
including job opportunities.
Networking is a two way street. Once you realize that you must
give back in order to receive, you have taken the first step.
At the most basic level, networking is about respecting people
you'd like to form relationships with. Failing to appreciate how
to respond to opportunities to develop relationships is the cause
for most networking abuses.
So how can you be effective in networking and do it nicely? Here
are some tips:
- Starting out: If you are new to networking, begin with
strategies that allow you to start the process with people
you're comfortable talking with. This could be neighbors,
friends from church or your child's school. Write out
a list of everyone you know.
- Set goals: Have a plan, such as attending two networking
opportunities per month, making four new contacts per
meeting, or volunteering for a position in a trade association.
Target what you want.
- Have a clear message: Know what you want to say and
be specific, but remember networking is not a canned sales
pitch. Forget trying to impress people. Tailor your message
to the situation.
- Listen first: Always listen first and do it attentively.
Ask questions and para-phrase what you hear. Good networkers
give contacts time to speak; some say you should listen
80% of the time on first contact. Get your contact's business
card and follow-up the next day. Be grateful of their
assistance and thank them.
- Keep in contact on a regular basis: Don't let your network
die. Follow-up with individuals on a regular basis, even
if it's every 3-6 months. Give something back to them,
such a reference to an interesting web site.
Try a couple of these techniques at the next APICS meeting. Remember,
each planned contact can lead to unexpected ones, if you ask the
right questions and explore the possibilities. It has been said
that "Happy accidents are the rule, rather than the exception,
when you network correctly."