Everyone is interested in having a network of colleagues and acquaintances that they can count on for exchanging ideas, getting advice, or just sharing the thrills and woes of the workday. At some point, we all need to ask someone for help or advice. In those instances, having a trusted network makes getting feedback so much easier and more successful.
So, if having a network is so valuable, why is networking often treated like a four-letter word? Why do many of us view networking as “the unpleasant task of trading favors with strangers,” as it was described in a Harvard Business Review article?
The reality is the negative image of networking often comes from an aggressive, sales-oriented style of networking where participants are looking to score a sale rather than develop a connection or network of relationships. Rather, to build a network, it is best to go into business social situations with a mindset of developing longer-lasting contacts, not one-time sales.
In an article in Forbes, Andrew Vest cites several ways to “network successfully and have fun doing it.”
- Start networking before you need it. If you NEED to have a network, this again becomes transactional, not relational.
- Have a plan. Know what your value is in a network and what talents and strengths you can bring to the networking table. Figure out how you can be useful to others.
- Forget about your personal agenda. Your goal should be to forge honest, sincere connections with people. Generosity is always an attractive quality, and even more appreciated in networking.
- Never dismiss anyone as unimportant. You don’t know what your future needs are for your network. Every contact should be considered important.
- Follow up and follow through. If you said you would follow-up, do so. Use your follow-up as a chance to reaffirm your interest in helping your new contact in any way you can.
If you are interested in building a network, the Greater Freeport Partnership offers many opportunities to build a quality network. Monthly events like Business After Hours, typically held the third Thursday of every month from 5-7 pm at various member businesses; Rise n’ Shine, held the first Thursday of each month from 7:30-8:30 am; the Women’s Enrichment Network, which holds meetings from noon to 1 pm on the second Wednesday of each month; and the Young Professionals Network, which has social events on the second Wednesday of each month, from 5-7 pm. We also have many committee and volunteer opportunities that allow you to make contacts and grow your network. More information on all of these can be found elsewhere in this newsletter or on our website at greaterfreeport.com.
Thank you and happy networking!