Networking is not only a valuable tool for career success, but also an indispensable skill for career survival. Proper networking does not entail bothering, harassing, using people or a business card collection match. Effective networking is based on relationships that are cultivated and nurtured so that a mutual exchange of information, advice and support is given and received. It’s about fostering relationships with others in a meaningful way so that you have people to turn to when you need information and support and people you can help when they need someone to turn to.
Networking is all about who you know, who knows what you need to know, what you know (skills) and who knows that you know what you know. You need to communicate effectively about what you know, with your networks.
You can network when you need;
• To decide on a career direction
• To gather information about careers
• To make career decisions
• To obtain a job
• To choose career options
• help planning your job search strategy
• guidance as you evaluate job offers
• emotional support
• help preparing job search tools
You can network during;
• One-on-one meetings
• Academic or training settings
• Networking clubs or groups
• Social/recreational/community events
• Conferences and conventions
• Career or job fairs
• Email and other online communications
Some important factors to consider when networking include;
1. Have a networking goal, then set objectives to reach your goal. A goal is the result you hope to attain, and it may include job search, choosing a career path, deciding on a busines to develop. Once you have a goal and objectives, map out a plan that will help you meet your objectives which will in turn enable you to reach your goals. A plan is a list of networking activities that will lead to successful completion of your objectives
2. Establish your Network STARS (Tullier, 1998): These may include;
• Strategists- The people who help you plan and achieve your goals
• Targets- The people closely associated with your career or business goals like potential employers or customers
• Allied forces- the professionals who provide expertise to strengthen your networking efforts like image consultants
• Role models- people who set a good example and offer you advice
• Supporters- the people who provide emotional support
3. Establish a frequency-of-contact system: It’s easy to focus on some of your networks and forget others who may actually be very important to you as you work towards achieving your goals. To ensure you are not forgetting anyone important, it is wise to use the frequency-of-contact system (Tullier, 1998). This system involves organizing your contacts into four basic categories- frequent, moderate, occasional and periodic, based on how often you need to be in touch with them.
• Frequent contacts- those people you speak to regularly because they are an active part of your professional or personal life.
• Moderate and occasional contacts- People you need to stay in touch with a little less than the frequent category.
• Periodic contacts- people you have no reason to communicate with regularly but don’t want to forget about or be forgotten by.