Since the beginning of time, humans have been sharing information to come up with new ideas. In the Internet age, personal networking has undergone a massive transformation and has become an essential tool for progress.
Relationships are critical to success. Being well connected is the ultimate source of personal effectiveness and advantage. It is shared success, where what you can give is as important as what you can get from your personal networking.
The best way to find jobs, or employees, is through networking. But networking isn’t just for job-hunters or the self-employed. Everyone needs networking skills to thrive in the new business environment.
Good personal networking leads to better jobs, higher performance and promotions. Employee networking improves relationships between peers, subordinates and superiors, taps the power of diversity and builds bridges between organizational units—and better bottom lines.
Use it, or lose it
The advantage of networking is that someone may have solutions to problems that you cannot solve yourself. The more people you add to your knowledge network, the better chance you have of finding your solutions.
The most powerful aspect of the knowledge network is its most overlooked advantage—solutions that result when two or more individuals communicate with a common goal. According to Metcalfe’s Law, the power to arrive at solutions and the quality of those solutions increases exponentially with each individual who joins your network.
My own personal networking comes through my writing—columns such as this—and my speeches on automation and future technology topics. The Q&A sessions during my speeches often result in spontaneous discussions that inspire new ideas. And the people I meet give me more ideas, plus invitations for more speaking engagements. My eNewsletter brings regular feedback, and I make it a point to respond to each one—which builds and strengthens my network.
E-mail has become a powerful networking tool, making regular contact easy, without being as intrusive as telephone calls. You exchange items of mutual interest—Web links, pictures, news items and the like—regularly with several close connections, which brings them even closer.
Online networking has the multiplying viral effect that’s unique to the Internet. Beyond the value of Facebook and Twitter for social networking, online business networking communities such as LinkedIn and Plaxo have become important tools. To narrow the search, they include sub-networks focused on topics of particular interest.
Then there’s old-fashioned networking—in person, with a handshake. Major automation companies now favor their own private user-groups over industry-wide gatherings because it offers their customers opportunities to network and share information with other users. And customers, as well as editors and others, attend because these offer good personal networking opportunities.
With large group meetings, however, you must manage your involvement to network effectively. You can review the guest list, of course, or scan the name tags, to look for specific people or companies. But, the chance meetings often generate the gems.
Here are some do’s and don’ts to help personal networking effectiveness:
• Don’t fall into the rut of sticking with someone you know. Circulate to find new people and new ideas.
• Don’t get stuck with someone who has nothing to offer (“Excuse me, I see someone…”).
• Don’t ask for favors without offering something in return.
• Do have plenty of business cards to hand out, and help people to remember you beyond just your business card.
• Do follow-up quickly, and stay in touch to develop the contact.
• Do build relationship bridges, offering information of mutual interest to fuel the friendship.
Networking is one of the most rewarding activities in which you can engage, and you get better with practice. Become a regular networker. Count your connections, because connections count.
Jim Pinto is an industry analyst and commentator, writer, technology futurist and angel investor. You can e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or review his prognostications and predictions on his Web site: www.jimpinto.com