Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Value of Networking

Conventional wisdom points out that the time you need to be networking is when you will be least likely to think about it: before you're out of work. And it's true.

Whether you're a consultant or a full-time, in-house professional, you need a network and you need to network. A group of trusted colleagues, former coworkers and friends that you can turn to for:

  • Sharing interesting professional news.

  • Discussing things you have in common.

  • Collaborating on solutions to industry-wide problems.

  • Finding other good colleagues to hire.

  • Bouncing your latest wacky idea off of someone to see what will stick.
I think the old concept of networking is approaching it with the mindset of "What's in it for me?" Some people go to an industry meeting intending solely to make some contacts, then follow up to see what's possible. Essentially doing what Valeria Maltoni calls "in-person spamming."

Others are thinking, "What can I do for you?" They're the ones who take the time to listen - really listen. They're armed with information that might appeal to people attending the meeting. They're prepared to offer insight into the discussion. Take an active role in participating. And they're open to meeting people with a perspective that skews away from theirs. (Makes life more interesting, no?)

Which type would you rather interact with?

It's the real, true connections that make a network sing. And those connections form through common interests, uncommon discussions, give-and-take that occurs over time. More than the mere exchange of business cards.

What have you done to cultivate your network, lately? Reach out to a former colleague. Share something you've read. Offer a recommendation for a vendor you've found.

You'll never know where the conversation might lead.

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