Are You Using Your Network Correctly?
How broad is your professional network? How do you stay in touch with your contacts? It takes more than an occasional email or text. If you’re not networking correctly, you’re missing out on a powerful tool to help you improve your job performance and your career development.
What is a Network?
A network is nothing mysterious. It’s is a group of people in related or unrelated businesses, looking to further their own and their contacts’ careers or interests by sharing information and forming business relationships. Note the focus on careers and business. This is not your social circle.
‘… a group of people who want to advance their own and their contacts’ careers or interests by sharing information and forming business relationships.’
Networking requires giving and receiving. You must offer as well as ask for help. And while networks are becoming the best way to find a new job, there are many more benefits. A good one will help you:
- Improve your performance in your current role: Get the information you need to do a better job today
- Build specific skills: Identify a mentor or model from whom you can learn something new
- Find your next job: Hear about opportunities before they are announced, or get a direct line to the hiring manager
- Meet new employees Get introduced to someone who is a perfect fit for the job opening up in your company
- Find a supplier or business partner: Get recommendations for everything from logistics providers to promotional agencies
- Help others: When you help someone else, you create a closer tie with that person. I recommend that about 70% of your networking involve giving help, and 30% of it asking for help. Give generously and it will come back to help you!
Give generously! Your networking activities should be 70% giving help and 30% asking for it.
Women and Business Networking
Networking is one of those business activities that many women shy away from. I often hear from women that they are uncomfortable, or that deciding what they want to get from their network feels like using people. Or that it sounds like a series of business transactions, and they would rather to get to know people. They use words like intimidating, or awkward.
For anyone feeling that way right now, it’s OK. You are normal. You also limit yourself with this view. Take a moment and think again about the purpose of a network: people in related or unrelated businesses advancing their own and their contacts’ careers or interests by sharing information and forming business relationships. A network is inherently about relationships – business relationships.
Expanding your Network
You can expand your network in many ways. Have lunch or coffee with someone from another department. Become active in a professional organization. Or join a dedicated business network, like BPW International, the world’s most vibrant international business network for women. With chapters all over the world, BPW is dedicated to helping all women reach their full potential. There’s probably a chapter near you.
Training courses are a great place to expand your network too. Attendees are usually working in the same or related areas, or working on similar skills. You can even take courses in networking from providers like Fundamental Capabilities. Wherever you meet people, you have the chance to network – even on line at the grocery store, or when you are stuck in the airport. And you know that joke about women talking in the ladies’ room? It’s no joke, you can even network there!
Kickstart Your Network Now
Whether you are looking for a new job, a new skill, or just to know more about your industry, your network is a great place to start. So go out there and talk with people. Ask them about what they do, why they do it, how they do it. Offer to connect them to someone else they know. Tell them about something you have seen that might interest them. Ask for advice or introductions. Before you know it you will be on your way to having a broad network of connections that can help you reach your goals!