So, I’ve posted a few times about networking and have had a few clients ask me to go into more detail about what I mean.  I think in most cases people think it is about “selling” themselves, or asking people for things.

networking-graphic

Actually, networking is more about giving than receiving if it is going to be successful.  It is a natural result of human interactions and happened even before we had the term “networking”.

Here’s an example from rural Rhode Island (this story was told to me by a former colleague and is about her sister).  A young woman from a small town in Rhode Island where her family had lived for generations tried her hand working in NYC, but ultimately decided to return to her roots.  She didn’t have a college degree and job opportunities in her home town were few.  One job opened up in the office of the Town Clerk.  She wasn’t very well qualified for the position but knew that with a little time and training it would be a great job for her, so she applied for the job.  Now, this town had a very tight knit community of year-rounders and a much bigger Summer population when people occupied their vacation homes in the town.  The mother of this young lady was active in the town and was known by almost everyone.  She visited people when they were sick and had built up a small Avon business among the women of the town.  She was out and about one day when an acquaintance of hers that worked in the Town’s municipal building stopped to say “hello”.  While in conversation, the mother mentioned that her daughter had applied for a job in the Town Clerk’s office.  The acquaintance said ‘ “Oh, I saw her resume and wondered if she was related to you”.  Of course, the daughter got the job.  It probably would not have happened if her mother did not have a “network” in place.  The mother had been active and helpful in her network for years before this incident and her motivation for her involvement was not so that she could use her network for personal gain, but rather to be a good community member.

Networking is about building community.  You can be involved in many different kinds of communities.  Your hobbies, work, education, family, place of residence, volunteer activities and house of worship are all areas where you can build genuine and meaningful networks.  The reason it works is that people will reciprocate when you have provided help for the community.  It’s not always a direct exchange of favors.  In the case of the Rhode Island mother, she had not directly helped the acquaintance who worked in the municipal building, but she was known by her as someone who was active and helpful in the community.

We don’t all live in tight knit communities.  We don’t all have ready made networks, so we need to cultivate them.  Social media Networking is a new phenomenon, but the rules are the same.  If you belong to an online group, be active and helpful to people.  Offer advice, send useful links to people and do this regularly so that people see your name crop up all the time.  Go into your network looking to help, and when you need help or advice in return, people will be more willing to give back to you.

As I write this, we are in the season of giving.  Now is a great time to review our networks and figure out how we can “give” to our communities in the coming year.  Make it a New Year’s resolution to be more active in our community.  Don’t go in with expectations – be more concerned with what you have to give and you’ll be surprised at how effective your networking will be!