By Sheri Staak
Networking is more than a business catchphrase; it’s a business necessity. It’s how work gets done, businesses thrive and careers blossom. Networking isn’t merely a job-hunting tool, it’s a job-sustaining tool. If you aren’t building and maintaining both external and internal networks, you’re fishing without a net, and will ultimately come up short.
Social media and networking expert Jeff Willinger from Rightpoint, just named to Crain’s list of best companies to work for in Chicago, discussed the ever changing and growing social media space and how to take personal interactions to the next level. He provided insights on whether to use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to enhance the networking experience and how to make yourself invaluable to both your employer and to your clients. Our program had a wonderful opportunity for all in attendance to “speed network” and it was a huge success.
Network leveraging the social media tools of LinkedIn, Facebook or learn to tweet to:
- Build relationships: Networking is built on interpersonal relationships. But that doesn’t mean developing relationships with every single person you encounter. It’s about meaningful interactions with people of substance–those who are strategically aligned with your own goals and ideals, those you admire, respect and trust. Don’t grow a garden of weeds–plant seeds that are destined to blossom into something of value.
- Maintain your network: Establishing a network is one thing, maintaining it is quite another. You can’t simply make an introduction or have a single conversation and then fade forever into the background. Your network must be regularly attended to for it to truly work. Once relationships are formed, it’s vital to reach out on a consistent basis with some form of meaningful interaction. Pick up the phone, send an email, touch base with a text or pay them a visit. However, don’t only make contact when you need something–be sure to also reach out “just because” or when you can help or be of value to them in some way.
- Branch out: Networking is all about connections; but not just between you and your contacts. To really make networking work, you need to branch out and link your contacts to each other as well. Take the process to the next level by making introductions within your network. Perhaps a trusted colleague needs help you aren’t able to provide, but you know someone else who would be the right fit for the task. Make the connection using LinkedIn.
- Step beyond the social: Networking is easier than every nowadays via social media. But be careful not to rely too heavily on connection tools like LinkedIn or Facebook. Although LinkedIn is your best bet for growing a wide network of followers and influencers, you run the risk of forming only “generic,” one-dimensional relationships if you don’t move beyond the screen. LinkedIn is a great place to begin forming connections, but don’t stop there. Take a step beyond the social by reaching out and establishing a personal dialogue with those you value within the network.
Networking is a business two-way street that enables you to connect with those who can get things done. It’s about establishing relationships that work in a meaningful, reciprocal manner to help both sides of the connection. Protecting your networking investment has numerous strategic advantages. With a strong network, you’ll have a place to start when seeking referrals and you’ll have an established voice when you want to be heard. The only way to make networking work for you is by putting in the effort to grow and maintain it. If you let your relationships slide and leave your connections up to chance, your network will simply network.
Tips: Make sure you add a picture to your LinkedIn and learn to tweet.