The Importance of Networking in a Tough Economy

Our current economic state presents us with many opportunities – it’s all about how you choose to look at it. My focus has always been on the basics; taking a moment to look at your foundation with an emphasis on finances. Regardless of where you look, it is all about relationships – your relationship with your money, bank, employer, family, and friends.

This brings me to the importance of networking, and the value of forming and maintaining a strong circle of contacts. There is no better time than now to strengthen or build your network. A solid network will serve you well for years to come and will be an additional tool in your toolbox especially during these times of economic uncertainty.

Networking includes both internal and external activity. Internally, be visible at your current job – don’t hide in your office or cubicle. Volunteer for projects and make yourself available. Expand your lunch partners. Meet and talk with new coworkers and continue to communicate with them on a regular basis. Be informed; know where your company is going. You may want to consider brushing-up your skills or broadening your knowledge which leads me to external networking. This can also enhance your current situation. An easy way to do this is by joining a professional organization within your field. Network by regularly attending the meetings, meeting new people, and benefiting from the information and knowledge presented through seminars and speakers.

Keep in mind that networking is not easy for most and can even be painful.

Tip: To help ease your apprehension, consider arriving early at a meeting when there are fewer people or invite a colleague to attend with you. Then, take your membership to the next level by becoming a board member or chairing a committee. This opens many new doors and looks good on your resume.

Also, consider joining an online professional network such as LinkedIn. You can add your professional memberships/organizations to your profile for added visibility. Invite your contacts to join and continue expanding your network with updated information.

Final tips: always exchange contact information or business cards and follow-up. Start and maintain a database of the contacts in your network that includes their name, email address, phone number, as well as how, when, and where you met with any additional, pertinent notes to help jar both your memory as well as your contact’s memory. Continue adding to this database and make it a point to keep in touch with any appropriate news or pass along an article of interest.

It is all about relationships. Build them and keep them strong. Working together is much easier than going it alone.

3 Effective Networking Statements

We always want to make sure that what we are doing is effective and meaningful. In other words, we never want to be wasting our time when it comes to strengthening our career or building our businesses.

When we are out and networking for the cause, we want to make sure that our actions and efforts lead to productive and favorable outcomes. We want to practice the right things that are going to deliver to us the results we desire.

It should be noted that it is important to give to our contacts before expecting to receive. However, it is equally important to convey exactly what we need to other professionals and how they can assist us.

When you can do this the right way, it is concise and non-threatening to your contacts. It also keeps the basic motives of business networking alive. Those being, we will work together to help each other.

So, with the above taken into consideration, you must further position yourself for success. These statements can help;

1. If you are interested in helping me, I need…

You will want to say some combination of the above statement because your new contact may want to help you but fail to ask how. Saying this statement, of course calls for a very receptive ear but if not said, your contacts may never really know what you’re looking for. Assumptions cannot pay the bills so you must help them to help you.

2. The biggest problem I can solve for clients is…

There are so many different specialists in the business world that one can easily be confused with another. Letting your contacts know not only your ideal client but the best way you can solve a problem is just another way to be laser targeted in your approach. When doing this, you are literally handing them point blank information.

3. My biggest challenge is…

Describing your biggest challenge is not an opportunity or invitation to whine about all of your business woes. In fact, you should be selective in what is being described as a business challenge.

You must describe an aspect that is preventing you from clearing a certain hurdle. If the individual sincerely wants to help you, they need something to go on that may be attainable through their resources. In other words, it must be something tangible and not a personal issue like the lack of motivation. If this is the problem, it is a personal one and not a business challenge.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Business Networking

Business networking has a world of positive benefits. However, with everything positive, comes a few negatives at least. So, without further ado, let’s begin with the positive/pros in support of business networking:

The first point on the up side is;

You’re being active in the accumulation of business contacts and letting yourself be seen. Many people complain that they are just not meeting enough of the right people to help in their career direction.

When you are actively involved in business networking, you are increasing your chances of meeting those right people. Furthermore, if you are networking correctly by sharing referrals, introducing people, and following up with those you meet, the rewards will speak for themselves.

The 2nd positive point is;

Your 1 on 1 people skills will slowly develop into expert status. This is a benefit not talked about a lot but through trial and error, building great relationships will seem effortless. Consider the fact that when your 1 on 1 people skills are adequate, you will see a phenomenal increase in the positive results you get using all other communication, for example; telephone, e-mail, etc.

3rd, on the optimistic side is;

After being consistent, you will notice your own center of influence expand. If you are engaged actively in meeting, communicating, and generally helping many individuals, you will be liked as well as respected. When these type of things occur, your center of influence grows and you will become well-respected by default.

4, on the high side is;

Networking regularly gives you the opportunity to speak a lot about your profession. You will have the opportunity to educate many people about what you do when you meet them. This situation causes you to be on your toes and more knowledgeable about your profession.

The 5th benefit of business networking is;

You are greatly increasing your overall options. While networking for better business returns, you will meet an abundance of individuals who aren’t directly connected to your goals. Meeting individuals like this can benefit you in other ways like; finding a good plumber, helping you to get hired at a new company, and any other specialist in a particular field. A personal referral usually holds more merit.

And now for the alternatives or the down-side/cons of business networking:

#1. If you are an extreme example of a socially inhibited individual, getting out and networking could be very traumatic for you. I’m not saying that it’s something you can’t overcome but it could very well turn out to be a not so positive experience.

#2. You may find several events that may not be to your liking. This is an occupational hazard of business networking in which you attend business networking events with high expectations but are disappointed by the outcome. As with anything, this is not justification to give up but it does happen.

#3. People in your newly found network been as receptive as you would like. It is very true that many people talk a good game but in the heat of the moment, when you need them most, they can let you down.

#4. An unruly, undesirable individual may enter your life through networking. I know that this is an aspect that’s not discussed too frequently but I must be honest. Sometimes you can attract individuals through your friendly networking activities, which could prove energy draining if not detrimental to your career.

And #5. Networking doesn’t work for everybody. Yes, there are some individuals out there, as rare as they may be, where networking and building relationships with different people just isn’t their cup of tea. A small minority of people will find that no matter how hard they try, it just won’t deliver the desired results. This is sad but it is true.

So now you see the pros and cons on both ends. Personally I believe that business networking is very important and can work for most people in a positive way. Now, you have to ask yourself, “Is it bad or good?” The answer is “Good” and “Bad”. It all depends on the perspective of “you”, the reader.

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