How to Network for Professional Development

This topic is about planning your career, for example, to select the right career for you. If, however, you are interested instead in advancing in the same career field, then see Career Advancement. If you are interested in changing your career, see Career Change.

Sections of This Topic Include

Smart Networking: How to Advance Your Career
Power Networking – How Well Do You Do It
Easy Networking Tips for the Non-Networker
Additional Perspectives on Networking for Professional Development

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Smart Networking: How to Advance Your Career

© Copyright Marcia Zidle

Do you play bumper car or smart networking?

Bumper car networking is when you show up at a meeting or social function, bump up to someone for a couple of minutes, talk about this or that, hand out your business card and say something like: “Let’s get together some time."

Now smart networking is different. Its focus is on building relationships, not just contacts. Here are seven tips to help you connect with people, develop meaningful conversations and, most importantly, advance your career.

1. Come prepared.

Have two or three openers that you can use with a variety of people you meet. That way, you won’t fumble for something to say when you first meet someone.

Some examples: “What drew you here today? “Have you seen any good movies lately?” “What did you find particularly interesting about the presentation?”

2. Create an agenda.

People often dread small talk situations because they say, “I don’t know what to talk about.” Actually the problem is that there have too much to talk about—an entire universe of topics—not nothing to say. Narrow down your conversation options by making two lists.

  1. On the “get” list put who you want to meet or what you want to learn more about.
  2. On your “give” list put your areas of expertise, interesting information, people you know, etc.

3. Listen and learn.

Once you’ve asked your opening question, listen patiently to the person’s answer. Allow the speaker to elaborate without rushing to jump in. Be thinking, “What does this person need? What’s on my "give" agenda?”

4. Focus your attention.

Avoid the canned nod-and-smile approach with eyes roaming the room to see who else is there. Continue to ask engaging questions. If you’re friendly and genuinely curious, others will feel comfortable talking with you.

5. Find common ground.

Only after the person has told “his story”, then share your thoughts and experiences. If you find something you both can relate to, that establishes a bond that can lead to further exchanges. Be open to the magic of where the conversation can take you.

6. Ask for their help.

Most people enjoy helping others. Therefore what is it that you want to “get”? Use your agenda to find someone who has written an article you’ve enjoyed, or can introduce you to the speaker, or give you ideas for your upcoming project.

7. End with the next step.

If you want to continue the relationship, conclude with what you're going to do next or what you expect of the other person.

“I‘ll send you the article we’ve been talking about.”
Let’s set up a time when we can get together to talk further.”

Preparation, a focused agenda and a genuine interest in others are the keys to smart networking that builds relationships, not just contacts. Think back to a recent networking event you attended. Did you play bumper car or smart networking?

Power Networking: How Well Do You Do It?

© Copyright Marcia Zidle

Relationships are the bread of career life. So make and break bread with others.

In times of change, contacts are the sources of information, opportunity and even power. Don’t let your everyday responsibilities isolate you from others. Move out from behind your desk. Move around in a variety of circles. Move quickly, eat hardy and often. Consider your current assignment as temporary and maintaining your networking as permanent. You never know who will play an important role in your evolving career or life.

Evaluate Your Network

You need to examine three factors: the size, the diversity, and the strength of your contacts. Here's how:

  • List the key people who are in your career world inside and outside your company. How many people do you know? The greater the size or number, the more access you have to information and support.
  • Review that list and write down what they do or who they work for.
    Are most of your contacts in your functional area or profession? Or are there linkages to other parts of your organization and outside to customers, suppliers and others?
  • Assess the quality of those relationships. Are they strong or weak?
    One way to decide strength is: How soon will they return your phone call or email, if at all?) The stronger the ties, the more you can go to the well for water – the more you can ask for their time and contacts.

Career Success Tip:

Power networking is not just the number of contacts you have but the breadth of those contacts. If you have a diverse and strong network, you then can tap into a wide variety of resources and information. How well are you networked? How well do you connect for success?

Easy Networking Tips for the Non-Networker

© Copyright Lisa Chapman

Why is networking sometimes uncomfortable? For many people, it’s the expectation and pressure of ‘pushing’ your message. If you’re basically a shy person, this sales approach doesn’t come naturally.

Well, RELAX! With a simple shift in thinking, you can actually ENJOY networking.

Networking is NOT Selling

Effective, engaging and enjoyable networking is an important component of your marketing strategy. But it’s a marketing strategy that is NOT about using people for your gain. Rather, it IS about a win/win exchange of contacts, information, business referrals, and tips that usually help the other person.

When you learn something new that excites you, and the other person learns something interesting or hopeful, a successful networking relationship has begun.

First, Give a Referral or Helpful Tip

Effective networkers are eager to GIVE FIRST. By showing generosity without the expectation to receive, you create enormous goodwill. You also:

Diffuse any pressure related to ‘selling’ yourself or your business.
Subconsciously establish a subtle “owe me one”. This will come back to you, whether or not it’s the same person – it’s good energy flow!
Feel good about yourself, which leads to a relaxed, enjoyable encounter.

When Networking, First Ask to Help the Other Person

It’s as easy as this: Right after you exchange names and establish each others’ jobs/titles, ask the other person:

“I’m constantly meeting new people. What would be an ideal referral for you?”

This question is about GIVING first. It naturally leads to a great conversation about the other person. You may have a connection or referral to help them. But even if you don’t, just say:

“I’ll definitely keep my ears open and contact you when I have a referral.”

And guess what? Nine times out of ten, they will ask you the same question in return. Voila! You’ve just created a memorable networking exchange with positive goodwill.

Additional Perspectives on Networking for Professional Development

Networking on the Network
How To Survive Downsizing
Networking is Even More Powerful and More Important for Business
bottomline
Job Search Guide - Networking
Social Networking (Online)
Success at Work : People Skills - Networking
Easy Networking Tips -- For the Non-Networker
The Three Networks You Need
Do Your Friends Hold You Back?
How to Make Your Network Work for You
Smart Networking: How to Advance Your Career
How to measure the effectiveness of your networking activities
How to Reach Out After Losing Touch
Power Networking: How Well Do You Do It?
New Networking Tip!
The Most Valuable People in Your Network
Don’t Settle for One Network, Build Three
Advance Your Career: Strengthen Your Company Network
Are You Connecting With the Right People?

General Resources

LinkedIn (online professional social network)
Diversity Networking and Professional Associations
The Best of Effective Networking for Professional Success
The Art of Career and Job-Search Networking
Key Career Networking Resources for Job-Seekers


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Many of the Library's materials about nonprofit leadership and management are adapted from this book. Just click on the title of the book above to see the Index and Table of Contents.

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Personal Development -- Recommended Books




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