I’m at the SHRM Annual Conference and Expo this week. Some of the best parts of the event are the networking opportunities – both the organized ones like the SHRM Meet-up being hosted by Glassdoor and the ones you arrange on your own. It’s really fun to meet people I’ve only traded tweets with or connect with friends from my days as a volunteer leader.
Of course, I’m going to attend some sessions and get a few recertification credits. I’m also going to spend plenty of time in the expo hall learning about new products and services that I will either use myself or recommend to my clients and colleagues. But it’s equally important to make time for networking.
Frankly, it never ceases to amaze me the number of people who only network when they need to. And I can’t tell you how many professionals I know who have lost their jobs, started networking like mad, and once they landed a new gig – stopped networking. They completely forgot that conversation where they swore they’ve learned their lesson and realize they need to continuously network.
If you’re looking to get more out of networking opportunities, one of the best books I’ve read on the subject is Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone. It’s kinda ironic that I read the book while traveling (alone) from a conference. But we won’t go there.
Here are a few takeaways I’ve learned about networking over the years. In fact, it might be easier to explain what networking is by saying what it’s not:
- Something to cross off your ‘to-do’ list (as in “I networked today.”)
- Only connecting with people you feel can do something for you
- Calling just to ask for favors
- Giving your resume to everyone you meet
- Only talking with your posse and not meeting anyone new
- Handing out your business card to everyone you meet
The purpose of networking is building relationships. Let me say that again. Networking is about building relationships. And, how do you build solid relationships? I think of listening, smiling, sharing, offering assistance, being helpful and connecting. Let me add that building relationships is a two-way street. Good networking has a balance to it. It’s not about one person always making the call. Or one person always asking a question. It’s about equal giving and sharing.
One last thing about networking. It’s not about always saying yes to every request that’s made of you. That’s a sure-fire way to starting feeling like you’re being taken advantage of. Learning how to say “no” is an equally important business skill.
I’d love to hear – what networking tips do you find effective? Leave a note in the comments.
Image courtesy of Robert Smith