By Robert Stitt
Everybody who is anybody says they are always networking, that networking is vitaly important, and that the key to success lies in quality networking. Yet, nobody ever mentions what networking really is or how to do it.
According to San Jose State University’s School of Information, networking is “simply an information exchange between you and another person. It involves establishing relationships with people who can help you advance your career.”
Networking isn’t just about schmoozing, though. In fact, networking isn’t a “get what you can” system. Instead, networking is a system of give and take. It’s as much about what you can give to the relationship as it is what you can get from it.
This does not mean that you should not actively seek out people to network with. You should. Look for people who are leaders in your industry, experts, and influential people. The secret is to ask yourself what you can do for that person instead of what that person can do for you. Most of these leaders are bombarded with people seeking their time. Most leaders find it quite refreshing to be approached by somebody who wants to contribute instead of just take. This not only makes you stand out from the crowd, but if your offer to help holds water, then you may have made a significant ally. Best of all, your help does not need to be a technical advancement or a groundbreaking device, it can simply be a thoughtful gesture, such as recommending them for an engagement or award that will bring them publicity or notice.
While networking is about your job, don’t limit your networking to your job. Go to events that influential people go to. Find out what they are into and share their passions. Before starting a conversation, know a thing or two about them so you can discuss things they love and avoid topics they cannot stand. In addition to LinkedIn, you can get this information by following their tweets and checking out their Instagram messages. While this may sound a little like stalking, it’s all in the perspective.
Whether you network online or off, at work, or at the gym, just remember that networking is about relationships and not drive-by conversations. Take the time to work on your network of relationships. Remember birthdays, attend people’s webinars, respond to their tweets, share an article, etc.