To some folks networking comes naturally and to others they would rather complete a college dissertation. It is not easy to network, you have to make a concentrated and sustained effort to keep your circle from closing. Networking is both an art and a science, most of us tend to like one or other, but not both. Mixing the art of opening yourself up and being vulnerable to the outside world can be a frightening thought. The science of developing a plan to allow expansion of your inner self to others requires methodical thinking and technical skills.
There is no argument that networking has the ability to form and maintain a strong circle of contacts that can stay with you for a lifetime. Networking is also internal and external for those of you who work within and outside your particular facility. The benefit of visibility, meeting and talking with others, attending meetings (socially and professionally), volunteering, joining organizations and on-line activities offer unlimited opportunities to create endless future opportunities for you on a personal and professional level.
Suggestions to begin the networking process when the situation presents itself:
- Take advantage of every opportunity to put your best foot forward, never be afraid to introduce yourself or simply say hello to someone you have never met
- Be ready to describe what you do in a quick and concise manner
- Use business cards as a way to exchange valuable information and follow-up
- Be willing to listen to the other person and learn from their experiences
- Offer something in return, help, advice, reduced cost services
- Be patient in expecting immediate rewards, sometimes it takes months or even years
- Know what you want to learn from people you meet, be prepared to ask meaningful questions
- Always follow-up, follow-up, follow-up
Begin by taking simple steps to expand your network. One option is to use free social networking sites such as LinkedIn that has over 300 million members all over the world. Enter or update your profile, include a nice photograph of yourself and keep the information you share current and relevant. Let the world know who you are and what you do, while exploring the work of those around you!