Networking is a term that means different things to different people. To some, it has a negative connotation such as relying on others to get things or trying to get something out of everyone you interact with. To others, it strikes a chord of fear because they associate the term with having to introduce themselves to a total stranger.
Networking is simply the process of developing connections with people that you can help or that can help you. In an ideal situation, you will both benefit right away from that connection, but sometimes it takes a little bit of time before one or both people benefit from that relationship. If you imagine yourself as a dot with your name above it on an otherwise blank piece of paper then add your skills, abilities, strengths, resources and knowledge to that dot, you’ll get a good picture of what you have immediate access to.
When you add the people that you know as dots on that piece of paper, along with their knowledge and resources, then the amount of knowledge and resources that you have expands exponentially. And if each of these people had their own sheet of paper that listed the people that they know and all the resources they have access to, your world expands even farther. In fact, the “Six Degrees of Separation” theory states that if you were list out all of the contacts of your contacts and go six levels deep, you’d reach almost every person on the face of the earth. And using this method to get from you to someone else you need to get an audience with is the essence of networking.
So why is networking so important? There’s an old saying that states “If there’s something that you need, there’s a person out there that can help you get it.” Being an effective networker can help you quickly get in touch with the people that will help you get what you desire. Effective networking has helped me get jobs, land clients, find new members for the clubs that I’ve been a part of and get help for various projects.
If you own your own business, being an effective networker can help find vendors, land clients and attract the resources you need. If you’re a member of the workforce, networking can land you interviews, find a new job or succeed at your current job. Having contacts throughout an organization will ensure that news such as new job openings or changes in company policy, gets to you early on.
Even if you’re trying to improve your social life, being an effective networker can help you. You’ll be able to find people who share your interests and are fun to be with. Networking can even help you find true love. Ever ask a couple how they met and they replied “through a friend”? That’s networking.
Networking has a variety of uses both in and out of the workplace. So if there’s something you need, look at the resources you have available to you to figure out who can help you. If the person you need to connect with isn’t currently in your network, then find the path (via the six degrees of separation) to that person.
James Feudo owns the Boston Web Design Agency JVF Solutions and loves blogging about personal development and communication in his spare time.