Networking: An Expert Opinion

(This post is part of our 2014 Resolve to Evolve program.)

“Business is all about personal contact. No matter how heavy your workload is, do not allow yourself to work in your cubicle or office all day, every day – for your own well-being and the health of your business, you need to get out and about, meeting people and developing relationships,” Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group.

Networking is crucial to the health of your career and your organization. But when things are going well, it’s often something we put off. Perhaps it feels too scary or intimidating to get out there and meet with people you don’t really know. Or maybe you don’t even know how to get started. (More on that next week.)

According to Dawn Rosenberg McKay, a career planning expert, here are six rules for networking:

1. Everyone You Know is a Potential Member of Your Network – When it comes to networking everyone you know can be a useful contact. While someone may not be directly involved in your field, he or she may know another person who is.

2. Be Willing to Ask for Help  – In order to get help you have to ask for it. Don’t be shy. If you need advice call someone in your network.

3. Be Willing to Give Help – Your network doesn’t exist only for your benefit. You should be willing to offer your help to others as well. So, if someone in your network asks you to speak to his nephew about your job, you must be willing to do it. If you hear news that someone in your network can benefit from take the time to share it.

4. Don’t Use Your Network Only for Job Hunting – Many people have the misconception that networking is only for job hunting. They attempt to utilize it only when looking for work. Well, guess what? If you only get in touch with your contacts when you are looking for work, your network may dry up. Not only that — your contacts may come to know you as “that person who’s always looking for a job.”

5. Keep in Touch With Your Network Contacts – Check in with your contacts every now and then. Find out what they’re up to and let them know what is happening with your career. It will be much easier to track someone down after not talking to them for a couple of months than it will be after being out of touch for a year or longer.

6. Thank Your Contacts for Their Help – When one of your contacts gives you advice or provides you with a job lead don’t forget to send her a thank you note. You can use email to do this.

Johanna Price

Johanna Price is a writer and editor living in the Twin Cities. Follow her on Twitter @johannaprice.