Networking: How's That Working For You?

by Sindy Thomas

I have a close friend who is an ace networker. She believes in the power of networking so strongly she started her own non-profit networking association and has kept it going for 10 years. She loves to help others and often turns down offers for work. Two of her favorite sayings are: "I've never met a stranger" and "If you wait until you need a network to build your network, it's too late."

Network relationships are built on time, trust equity and reciprocation.

Now I'll be the first to admit networking is something you can easily push off one's busy schedule when time is tight. I've blown off my share of networking events. In this age of high unemployment networking is vital when we need to have access to people in key positions. Here are a few guidelines to elevate networking to its proper place of importance on our schedules.

Get some regularly scheduled networking events on your calendar.

Attending professionally focused networking groups for those in our particular expertise speciality is great. However, get out of your comfort level. Expand your networking efforts to include other groups of other professionals will round out your connections network. The goal is to have access to a broad range of professionals.

Decide on a goal to achieve for each event you attend.

Is there someone specifically you want to meet? Or did you want to add 5 new people to your network.

Have plenty of business cards with you. If you don't have business cards get your own printed up. It doesn't cost much and it'll add to your level of professionalism and gives others a way to contact you easily. Make note on the card of where you met the person and add something personal about them. It'll help you to remember them easily.

Go for quality vs. quantity.

Don't waste your time trying to meet everyone in the room. You won't remember them and they won't remember you either. Leading with what you need isn't the way to go either. Take the time to get to know your new connection and build a rapport. Find out their interests and inquire how you can help them. You can even make an appointment to call them to ask for their helpful expertise. Using this approach you'll be assured to have their undivided attention. Also, be honest, genuine and keep your promises. If you say you'll follow up with them do so.

Don't be a one-time fling.

Keep in touch. It's called building a community and developing trust. Reach out to your connections regularly to see how things are going and be open to helping them. In this "it's all about me society" remember it's about others too. You'll become a person of value if you follow these few guidelines. When you need advice, or a referral later you'll find you have access to the right people.

Sindy Thomas is a Sr. Healthcare Recruiter who works for Berkeley HeartLab, Inc.

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