A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem
Dear Sue: I hear a lot about "networking" as a way of helping people find new jobs or advance in their careers. I am interested in expanding my network, but I have no idea how to go about making contacts.
If I went some place where I might find someone as a possible contact, I would be afraid to approach people because I have no idea about what to say.
Most of the people I come into contact with at work don't seem interested in more than saying "hello," so it's hard to imagine them being on my contact list. Can you explain how to network effectively?
- Need to network
Sue Says: I sought the advice of Melissa Giovagnoli, president of Networlding.com, and coauthor of the book, "Networlding: Building Relationships and Opportunities for Success." She defines networking as the process of developing relationships with people to help achieve personal and professional goals. She says that most people don't realize that every person they meet has a "hidden network." In other words, everyone has a core group of people they influence strongly. These people like and trust us, and will most likely transfer that like and trust to people we refer to them. Most of us have at least one or two people we have high influence with.
When we connect with someone, we also connect with the other connections they have. This reality plays out further when you realize that these new connections will also have connections with influence, and so on and so on. It becomes easy to extend your network very quickly, especially if you are good at finding that first core group of great connections.
Most people use networking when looking for a new or better job. People who network know that they will either obtain their goals directly through the new people they meet or through introductions to others by people they know or meet.
For example, a person who is looking for a job might call someone and say, "Hi, George, my name is Melissa, and I was referred to you by Jim, our mutual friend. Jim said I could pick your brain a bit. I am looking to transition into another industry. Can you help me?" The problem with this type of conversation is that it is one sided and has a "what-can-you-do-for-me" focus.
There is another approach where conversations are centered on mutually beneficial opportunities. Giovagnoli refers to this as "networlding." Conversations are centered on mutually beneficial opportunities. A conversation may sound like this: "Hi, George, my name is Melissa. Our mutual friend Jim suggested I contact you. He told me you are a great person and an excellent manager. I would love to know more about you and share a bit about what I am doing to see how we might benefit one another.
Today, the value proposition is not just "What can I do for you?" when it comes to gaining key job or business opportunities. Its "What can we do for each other?" This centers the conversations on partnerships with mutual, long-term gain. Key phrases to use and say can include:
"Let's explore our potential opportunities."
"Let's share information on what we are seeing in the marketplace that might benefit us both."
"Let's get together and talk further about each other's top goals for the year."
"Let's brainstorm as to how we might help one another."
Including the interests and needs of the person you are talking with in the conversation makes a difference. There are plenty of people pushing themselves on others, looking for an easy referral to an opportunity. Working together prevents you from burning bridges with people you have asked for help one time too many, and creates a lifetime of fulfilling relationships.
Develop the right attitude and talk with the right people and you will find that your network will expand.
Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She
is author of the newly released
101 Tips for Graduates and
How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her web site at
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