Post by Jane K. Stimmler, contributing Women on Business writer
We will probably all agree that networking is highly beneficial to our careers for many reasons. We can gain valuable information, become known, develop relationships, acquire business leads and find opportunities for personal and professional growth. So, getting to know people both inside and outside your organization can be both productive and rewarding. As positive as it is, women often lament having to spend the time on networking activities because it takes away from “regular” work – as well as family time and social activities. And now, to make matters more confusing, the avenues for networking have expanded greatly.
With all the social networking sites, we now find ourselves with increased networking opportunities – and we can be at it 24/7 if we want to. This plethora of options can be viewed as a problem – or perhaps, an opportunity. I believe you have to look at all of the possibilities, scrutinize your schedule and consider your likes and dislikes. Once you honestly look at the issues, you can make some decisions about what might work for you, and then give it a try.
There’s still no substitute for personal contact. And social networking hasn’t usurped the many breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings held by professional groups and civic organizations. In my view – you just have to pick your spots. First think about which organization offers you the best networking opportunities and then think about schedule. If you’re not an early person – or if you are an early bird who gets all her work done by 10 am – skip the breakfast meetings. If your child needs to be picked up immediately after work, the dinners aren’t going to work for you. So the goal is to be strategic and match your lifestyle to events that you deem worthwhile.
Beyond actual face-to-face events – there’s the other face – Facebook – not to mention Linked In, Blogs, Twitter and all the rest. They all can be great ways of connecting and staying top of mind with people. They’re also always there, so they can create a great deal of self-imposed pressure on you to participate, even when you’d rather do something else. For those of us who are on the computer most of the day – it can be “more of the same” to be on the social networks on personal time. Some people love it, others resent the time it takes. Then there’s the issue of how much to say – or not – on these sites. I advocate being very careful about this: assume your boss or coworker might end up reading what you write and you won’t be sorry later.
With all the communication tools available today – we each have to develop a strategy about networking and decide what we want, the best way to get it, and how to adapt networking to fit our lives without dominating them.
What do you think? Please share!
Charlene Burke says
Networking is work :> It is a part of my marketing plan. As is speaking to small business groups, though I’ve not been able to do much of that, yet.
I’ve attended quite a few face-to-face networking events that I’ve since marked off my list of options; and others that have stayed on my list because of the contacts I’ve made and business that I’ve closed on. As for online networking I use Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Once a relationship has developed I use the telephone to cement the connection. Often it’s through the telephone conversation that we determine whether or not we’ll be doing business together in the future – or if we’ll stay connected as acquaintances and send business to each other.
I agree with your view that determining the most profitable networking events to attend involves a bit of thought – the 7:30 a.m. Breakfast is not a good idea for me, but the 11:30 – 1 p.m. lunch and speaker and networking is perfect. Evenings are good if I prepare for them by not being overloaded through the day. I’ve learned this about myself, and armed with this knowledge I can be much more effective in my social and business networking.