Networking: Building Relationships Consciously
- Sep 08, 2005
- Vicky Smith
- Career advancement
After death, the biggest fear most people have is public speaking. Networking is now running neck-in-neck, probably beating public speaking out as the second most dreaded activity. Networking is seen as self-serving where there are two participants – a taker and a giver. Who wants to be seen as a taker!
The advise of “you better start networking” usually comes when there is a drastic life change. Some of those changes are losing a job, getting a promotion, buying a computer or going through a divorce. Having a good base of contacts often assists us in making more informed choices about what next steps should be taken.
Our lives are changing on a daily basis and we are continually swamped with information. We have become the generation of people who work longer hours, continuously take courses and crave more leisure time. For most people, myself included, networking rates as one of the last activities we want to do with our minimal free time.
The word ‘networking’ sounds so harsh, although, it’s done without thinking everyday. When we start intentionally thinking about it, we cringe. Achievements in life do not happen without others assisting us along the way. When we have a successful job, build that dream home, rebuild an antique car or keep the computer working, people influence those successes by giving help or advise. A possible definition for networking could be to consciously build relationships that are jointly valuable, instead of doing these activities automatically.
Anything worthwhile, in our lives, happens because it receives deliberate and organized attention. Gardeners definitely live this fact. They spend many winter nights eagerly planning their spring and summer creations. In our work lives, it is so important to form relationships that we continually take care of. When advice is needed because of a job change, promotion, new initiative needs to be implemented or difficult situation has to be solved, relationships must be solid.
How can we network with the hectic and busy lives we lead? Because there is little time for face-to-face meetings or luncheons, email works wonders to stay connected with others. It gives the receiver an opportunity to respond when time allows. Sending notes or articles of interest is a superior networking tool to stay in touch with people you do not see daily.
I know two people who are skilled networkers or relationship builders. Rob owns a painting and decorating business. He deliberately uses people he knows for services he needs from sending flowers, getting computer support or using a photographer. As he chats with other people, whenever they bring up a problem, he always refers someone he knows who can do the job. Rob never misses an opportunity to recommend someone he can help in her or his business.
Chris is a president of a well-respected London company. Her motto is never lose touch with people you admire. She emails, phones, or writes notes to hundreds of people she has meet in her 25 years in business. She constantly connects people with new jobs, lawyers, accountants and even on occasion plays the matchmaker.
What stands out about Chris and Rob is they constantly think about how they can help others. In turn, they foster strong relationships with so many people. When they need assistance, people want to help them.
Another important way to widen your group of contacts is to belong to organizations or associations in your field. Business problems are never ending. It is a relief to have a group of people, you meet with regularly, to share issues and exchange ideas. Usually these groups bring in very informative speakers who talk about current information in your field. Information London has a listing of many of the organizations available in London. You can reach Information London's inquiry line at 432-2211. Two local-interest Web sites to look at are www.info.london.on.ca and www.fyilondon.com.
Networking involves associating with specialists from other fields. In our competitive work environment, we need to stay on top of business and social changes. We cannot be skilled in everything. It is important to connect with lawyers, accountants, computer technicians and human resource specialists to stay current. Meeting regularly to exchange ideas, solve problems and morally support each other soon becomes an enjoyable time spent with friends.
Taking evening courses is another excellent way of building contacts. You meet experts in so many different areas. Don’t make the mistake I so often do. Once the course is finished, I go on to the next thing and lose contact with some very talented people.
Networking and building strong relationships takes time, organization and effort. Make a list of people you enjoy spending time with or whose opinion you respect. Think about people you have been involved with in the past but haven’t been in touch with lately or taken courses with and thought they were very interesting or professionals you need to get to know better. Decide what you can do for them and start making contact. Join an association or take a course to broaden the base of knowledgeable people who can positively impact your life. If you do this consciously you will be spending time with people you like, having fun and building a network that can help you be successful.