Networking | Just Do It!

The word “networking” has taken on multiple meanings over the years, some of them negative.  In this case, the word is meant to include the process of connecting with similar organizations to yours, or organizations that can help you in your mission.  It is about connecting with them, getting to know them, understanding how they function, and developing the type of relationship that can be mutually beneficial in some way.

True networking is rare.

We go to networking events, particularly younger professionals looking for jobs, and talk to as many people as we can.  We share our experience and hopes and background in an attempt to get them to like us and hire us.  And then we move on.  We host networking breakfasts with local nonprofits and get everyone in the same room. This is huge progress, by the way!  But it still falls short, because we chat a little bit about we do, someone usually thanks us for the great work we’ve done, and we go our separate ways.

This is the type of networking we’ve grown accustomed to.

The type of networking we need to seek out is the networking that develops real relationships and mutual benefit.  This type of networking takes time and energy.  It takes personal meetings with lots of cups of coffee.  It takes many, many e-mails to people who may or may not acknowledge us and want to develop a relationship.  It takes failures and mistakes.  And it takes time.  But true networking, the growing of relationships that are mutually beneficial, offers results worth the work.

True networking will eventually lead to shared work loads and additional market reach.  It will lead to creative brainstorming and problem solving.  It will lead to a sharing of resources and joy.  It will lead to great friendships and mentoring relationships.  True networking is worth it.

But where do we start that process?  Here’s just a few tips to get you moving in the right direction:

  1. Pay attention to what other people/organizations are doing.  You can’t know whether a relationship would be beneficial if you don’t know what others are up to.  Make it a priority to notice businesses, people, and organizations around you.  This small step will make a huge difference.
  2. Go to networking events, but with the purpose of finding 1 or 2 people to get to know.  For real.  It may be difficult at first to select only one or two people from the group, but try it.  And then pay attention to them and try to understand who they are, what they do, and how your missions could intersect.  They may not, but if they do, you’ll have a leg up in the process of building that relationship.
  3. When you meet people who may have something to offer, make sure they know you noticed them.  Send an e-mail, invite them to coffee, whatever.  Do some follow-up.  It is too easy to let those budding relationships slip away if you don’t enrich them early on, so

What are your networking recommendations?

 

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