Networking – A Way of Life

by Guest Contributor on March 23, 2011


No longer an option

Today’s job climate makes networking even more important than ever; it is a necessity, not an option.

Large companies are growing at a slower pace than in the past, and people who previously have targeted only large corporations are looking elsewhere, often to smaller companies. Workers are changing jobs more frequently, elevating the importance of a strong network.

But because time is truly a precious commodity for many professional women, networking, unfortunately, has often been put on the back burner.

Often it has been done only sporadically for a specific purpose.

Or it has been done in an impromptu way when convenient.

In both cases, women have missed tremendous opportunities to grow their careers exponentially. Professional women can no longer afford to neglect this critical, strategic career builder.

There are many preconceived notions about networking, including the “right reasons” to network.

The truth is everyone can (and should) network, and each will have her own legitimate reasons for doing so.

Those who truly excel at networking, and therefore benefit the most, understand that networking is a way of life. Others use networking as an infrequent strategy that is only followed when you have a specific or urgent need.

Think of it like dieting; people usually begin diets when they want to lose weight – perhaps for a special occasion (like a wedding or reunion) or because of a dangerous health issue.

While they might succeed with the diet initially, the results are usually only temporary. If, however, someone who wants to lose weight commits to making healthy eating and exercise a lifestyle, the results are far more likely to last.

Similarly, a professional woman who only networks when she needs to get new clients, find a new job or make new friends will not enjoy long-term success. Only by taking the time to grow those relationships, build a solid reputation and help others as a part of her lifestyle will she be effective at networking.

For professional women, there is no easy answer to the challenge of finding the time to network.

The best place to start may be by making sure you have the right mindset.

Network IS:

  • A verb. It is active, ongoing pursuit that requires a commitment.
  • A progression. You will not necessarily see results immediately; it will take time and consistency for you to achieve your goals.
  • A two-way street. It is a give-and-take relationship and you must be willing to help people as much (if not more) than they help you.
  • A chance to change your career or your life.

Network is NOT:

  • A noun. While it is valuable to have database of contacts, it is what you do with those contacts that really counts.
  • A sporadic activity. It must be a part of your lifestyle to be truly effective.
  • Sales. It is about real relationships, not meeting prospects.
  • Rocket Science. Anyone in any profession or stage of life can improve her ability to build strong relationships through networking.

Once you have a full understanding of what networking really is, you can better develop a strategy for making it an attainable, effective and enjoyable part of your professional life.

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Image: ~~Yuna~~ via Flickr, Creative Commons

Marny Lifshen is a w2wlink expert and an Austin-based marketing communication consultant, author and speaker. She is the co-author of Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Women, released in August 2008. Marny specializes in professional services, marketing and public relations, and has contributed to many print and online publications. Marny is an experienced speaker and has been speaking to women’s organizations for more than 10 years.

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