Here’s a great article by Andrea Kay on networking!
Over the course of my 17 years in business (10 as a business owner) I have learned just how very important networking is. In fact, several of our largest and best clients were found though networking as were some of our best employees and partners!
I contend that no matter what line of business you are in, networking can only help you. But I also realize that for various reasons, it’s not always fun or easy depending on your personality style. I admit that I’m am not a natural at it, and it has taken me years to get even moderately comfortable doing it, and that was only out of necessity as a business owner.
I have found that it’s substantially less expensive (and for us, significantly more effective) to network with other professionals than other forms of pure advertising, especially if your product is a relatively difficult to explain service like computer programming/software development/technology consulting.
I realize that many folks might find working a room of strangers uncomfortable and maybe even distasteful, and some might even scoff at connecting with existing contacts, however, the author of the article makes a very salient and pertinent point:
“What is so indecent about learning useful information for your career like how you might transfer your talents to another industry or what trends and issues are affecting an allied industry you’re considering? “
I belive that it’s really impossible to know too many people and that generally, people are happy to help others. You never know when the next person you meet might be your best client, your best employer or your best employee for that matter! Or how a new contact might have the answer to a significant challenge you a facing or could serve as a mentor… Hopefully, you get the point!
There really is NO substitute for meeting people in the real world, especially in the context of business and social settings. Folks get to know you personally and can witness your skills and talents in action. Working with you, they can see firsthand that you are an intelligent, honest, ethical, trustworthy professional. Who doesn’t need to know folks with those attributes?
Organizations like your local Chamber of Commerce (I have been active participant in the NKY Chamber for nearly a decade including serving on the Board twice and the benefits have been innumerable!), business networking groups, non-profits, political parties and church related groups are great ways to meet other like-minded professionals, while at the same time doing some good in your community!
Online social media tools such as LinkedIn are a great compliment (notice I said compliment, NOT supplement) to professional networking in the real world. I freely admit that I’m somewhat of a LinkedIn fanatic and also use Plaxo and Facebook to meet new business professionals and to stay in contact with friends, family and colleagues around the world.
Again, these online tools are great compliments to real world networking, I can’t really recommend LinkedIn enough and have made real world professional contacts with folks that I first met online through mutual connections or through membership in various professional or political groups (I’ll blog on social media groups soon).
I’ve written a couple of articles on social media that delve into the topic in more detail if you’re interested and you can always Google “Social Media”
Cincinnati Business Courier: “Meeting and greeting work well on the Web“
NKY Chamber of Commerce Business Journal: “Social Networking Sites“
So make one of your 2009 resolutions to get out there and get networking! With our economy faltering, it’s never been more important, the next person you meet might help you, or might need your help!
Also, if you use LinkedIn and would like to join my network of more than 1100 professionals, you can find me here: Dave Hatter