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Networking is not a part-time job!

Networking is a great way to expand your network of contacts, particularly for those looking to establish professional contacts and stay in touch with peers, clients, and potential employers. However, once you’ve established mutual points of interest with new contacts, what’s next? It’s at this point you should set concrete steps to build on these relationships.

In order to be successful in connecting, find out what they want; find out what they need; find out who they are. This type of relationship building takes time, but will provide benefits in the long run. But it’s important to remember that successful networking isn’t just for when you’re looking for a job or need someone to help you with something. If you approach networking under the guise of these rationales, you’ll inevitably fail.

Networking needs to be nurtured over time, and with continual practice, you’ll build your network, be viewed as giving, interesting, and having a purpose without the expectation of anything in return. As you have the opportunity to send business or create opportunities for others you meet, you’ll likely see an increase in the number of referrals that come to you. And, when the referral does come to you, ensure you follow up with a personal ‘thank you’ note.

One of the major obstacles to effective networking is the fact it’s time consuming. It often takes a commitment of years to build a mature network of contacts. But that’s actually good news for those graduates entering our industry now. If you make the commitment to start building a network early in your career, by the time you’re ready to make new advancements in your career, you should be able to point to the dividends and potential dividends from the network you’ve spent years building.

Ultimately, effective networking involves defining possible contacts, determining your networking purpose, developing a plan of action, and committing the time and energy necessary to produce meaningful results. By constantly reaching out and nurturing existing relationships, and establishing new professional relationships, you’ll position yourself in a stream of opportunities, resources, information, and contacts that will pay dividends for years to come.

Professional networking involves knowing how to establish honest rapport, how to start, continue, and end conversations, and what to do to build a professional relationship. However, networking should be underpinned by key principles such as sincerity, trust, character, and competence since it’s a long-term project.

Countless times I’ve observed people run from person to person, with the expectations of first giving away their card and hoping to gather the other person’s. How can you possibly build a relationship with a person when your objective is to get out there and distribute cards? People know when you’re not sincere and when your focus is on the ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude.

Above it all, networking is very much an acquired ability which, with proper experience over time, can be learned, developed, and mastered. So, maybe it’s time for you to consider placing networking strategies more prominently within your own professional agenda.

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