How Networking Can Help Our Careers

Networking is one of the most used and misused buzzwords of our times. Many people confuse “networking” with the mere act of connecting with people via social media on sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. While these sites can be used for networking – effective networking is so much more.

Napoleon Hill, a famous motivational author of the past century, had this to say about networking, “You have to give before you receive.” And Tom Hopkins, author and one of the top sales guru’s of all time, takes it a step further: “When people use networking, they are taking advantage of a basic law – the Law of Reciprocity. The law basically says, if I do something good for you, you will feel obligated to do something good for me.” This is what effective networking is all about.

There are countless articles about “networking to find jobs,” currently on the Internet. Unfortunately, many of these bestow the readers with the wrong mindset for networking. If you charge off with the attitude that you must find someone to help you land a job, you are missing the critical component of effective networking. A sound mindset would be: I have quite a few friends when I think about it: current circle of friends, co-workers, former co-workers, college friends, extended family, church acquaintances, sorority sisters, trade association contacts, softball teammates, etc.

I have a great deal in common with most of them – whether it’s our children, past schools or jobs, athletic interests, or careers. I wonder who could use my assistance or advice on the best smart phone to buy, good books to read, selling their products, or advice on people they should know to advance their careers. Once you have ongoing dialog and mutual trust and respect established, then and only then, can you ask for their assistance. Social networking sites can be great “mediums” to use to extend your reach to establish or re-establish connections with old friends to rekindle relationships.

Guy Kawasaki, author of Art of the Start and entrepreneur, suggests two degrees of separation is as far as you should go in recommending someone or asking someone for their help with your job search. Assisting a friend of a trusted friend should not be a concern, but the friend of a friend of a friend is stretching it and could have negative consequences for your reputation.

Networking is not just something to do externally, but within your own company as well, to enhance in your career. Being known as the person in your company who others can go to for assistance with a project, for advice, or even a sounding board will open “internal” doors for you. You will learn about openings in other departments firsthand and perhaps get recommended; hear about the “true” state of your company and it’s long-term viability; find out about new projects; and an exciting new product team you may want to join. Volunteer for company initiatives and projects to meet the people who can assist you – but always keep in mind, what can you do for them before requesting their help.

Two very important components of networking I have learned are “create and nurture your network before you need it” and always “give a sincere thank you to the person(s) who provide you assistance.”

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