If you lost your job tomorrow, could you pick up the phone and have a job the next day? This may sound unrealistic, but for the serious networker, this is the ultimate goal. The serious networker builds their professional network before they need it, not after the fact. Because networking is about relationships, effective networking takes time. You need time to nurture your professional relationships, because in the end, networking is relationship building. You want strong relationships at your disposal when it is time to activate them.
So how do you build strong personal networks?
Search out movers and shakers in your industry. These people should be decision makers, people that can influence hiring decisions, not people who will just put in a good word for you. If you do not know them personally, find out who you know that knows them. In case you did not know, LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) is a great networking resource. LinkedIn is what I like to call the Facebook for professionals. So when you begin networking, start by listening, more than talking. Listen to people in your professional network. What is going on in their lives personally and professionally? What problems are they faced with on the job as well as in their personal lives? What expertise do they have? You may be tempted to jump in and start talking about yourself and the things you are going through, taking a sort of selfish approach to networking. Networking is a two-way street. It’s give and take. Scratch my back and I will scratch yours. This cannot be accomplished over a matter of days and weeks. This can sometimes take months and even years. So start now, building the professional networks that will pay dividends to you down the road.