“It isn’t just what you know, and it isn’t just who you know. It’s actually who you know, who knows you, and what you do for a living.”
- Bob Burg, Best-selling Author of Endless Referrals and The Go Giver
Networking could be defined as the development of relationships with people for mutual benefits. You cannot be successful in your profession all by yourself. You will need to participate in professional associations and make an effort to build lasting relationships with people. Networking could offer several benefits for professionals, including project management practitioners. The power of networking is simply stunning.
But, how can you build an effective network and sustain it. Here's how you can do it.
Project a Winning or Positive Attitude - If you are positive and enthusiastic about your relationships with people, they like your company. Conversely, people tend to avoid the company of gloomy and negative people. You might have noticed in social gatherings that it is the more enthusiastic and positive people who attract others. Therefore, if you are serious about creating lasting relationships with people, you should always project a winning or a positive attitude.
- Be Active in Organizations and Associations - Professional networking is not just about being a part of some organization or association. It is also important for you to contribute to these organizations and associations. This way you can gain respect from others if they see you rolling up your sleeves and getting to work. By volunteering with various organizations you could gain knowledge and experience on a particular domain; know more about people and their contributions and allow others to know more about your attitude, character, values, knowledge and skills.
While volunteering with several organizations, including no-profit organizations, I was not only able to enhance my skills in project management but also was able to know the contributions of many other professionals across the globe.
Serve Others in Your Network
Whenever you are in the network, you should always strive to add value to it. Remember, you are in the network to add value. If you approach a network as a taker rather than as a giver, people will not want to maintain any relationship with you.
The best thing to do is to have an open mind and keep adding value. As beginners, you can share information about business leads, various books and articles or even share information on anything that could be valuable to people in your network.
Exchange References Who Can Add Value
You can help others in your network grow professionally by exchanging references of people who are capable of adding value. Referring unqualified leads can put you down besides giving the impression that you do not respect the time of other professionals.
You could be explicit while referring people. For instance, let us assume that you meet Ravi who is in your network and who owns an IT business. You know that he is looking for experienced developers in a particular technology. Coincidentally, let us assume you also know a freelance developer John who has skill sets that meets the hiring expectations of Ravi. When you refer John to Ravi, ask him to mention your name as the source of referral. The next time when you meet Ravi, you could also ask him if John turned up for an interview and has he met his expectations.
Listen and Communicate Well
Whenever you are in a network, remember, it is not about 'me and me', it is about ' them'. People who always turn the discussion on themselves are the ones whom most people tend to avoid. Conversely, if you listen to others and draw them to talk about themselves, you will find that you are perceived as caring and intelligent and you will eventually get your turn to talk about yourself.
Another important aspect of networking, which is worth mentioning here, is that it is necessary to pay attention to everyone whom you network with and not just to people who are influential. This shows that you value each person's dignity and respect.
Follow-Up and Stay in Touch
You could also follow up and stay in touch with professionals in your network, by sending out congratulatory messages to people, notes to people whom you meet for the first time or by acknowledging powerful articles or presentations of various professionals. These small gestures go a long way in creating lasting relationships with people in your network and help you in sustaining them.
Networking helps professionals to grow professionally and be successful in their lives. Some of the ways of effective networking are projecting a positive or winning attitude, volunteering with various organizations, cultivating an attitude to serve others in your network, exchanging qualified leads, listening and communicating well and staying in touch with people in your network.