Monday, May 12, 2008

Networking Starts and Ends with You

Follow these tips to become a successful networker and business professional.

By Contributing Author and Cambridge Who’s Who Member Jo DeMarco

Whether you are part of an organization, have your own business or are contemplating starting one, do not discount the value of networking. Sharing effective business strategies and addressing the roller coaster ride that the economy today keeps us on is vital to your success as a business professional. Here are some fundamentals that have proven essential to me and have contributed to both my personal and professional growth and development.

Know thyself – Create a realistic picture of your strengths and weaknesses. Focusing on your areas of improvement will help you to identify when somebody else is dealing with the same issues. You would be surprised to hear how many people admit to having issues with time management, turning good ideas into reality, working with a team, etc. Having a realistic picture of yourself will allow you to network more effectively, as you will know what you need to learn from others and what advice you can offer someone else.

Know what your ambitions are – Where are you now in your professional life and where do you want to go? What are you striving for? Having the answers to these questions will help you to realize which types of networking environments best suit your needs. For example, if you are currently looking to open your own business, you should search for small business owner groups and workshops through local newspapers, libraries or via the internet. If you are employed by an organization that you would like to progress in, speak to your Human Resources Director and inquire about cross training, management courses, after hours groups, off site conferences, etc. Knowing where you want to go is the first crucial step to getting there.

Listen as well as you speak – We all want to be heard. We also want to find out useful information that will set us on the road to the success that we seek. When you have the opportunity to network, it is often more important for you to ask questions and listen well rather than talking a lot about yourself and stating what your goals and ambitions are. Also, do not be afraid to apply what you have learned from others; obviously it worked for someone else, why not for you too?

Be courteous – Once you have had great conversation and exchanged business cards with another professional, make it a priority to reach out to him/her again. If you have received advice from this person or found that your conversation led to improvement in any way in your personal or professional life, be sure to communicate that to them in your follow up email or phone call. Knowing that they have helped someone will inspire them to keep doing so. It will also keep the door open for future exchanges or references.

Be engaging – Never think that you know it all or do not have room to grow. You can learn something from just about everyone, so keep your eyes and ears open and embrace the people who you meet. You might be surprised to find out what you can learn from the most unusual people and in the most random places. Take the initiative to introduce yourself and spark conversation. Make your dialogue as engaging as possible by asking challenging questions and sharing your own experiences and expertise.

Following these strategies will help you to place yourself in more fruitful networking environments and make the most of them while you are there. Also, taking yourself and your goals into consideration before networking with other professionals will prompt you to ask better questions and listen more attentively to the answers you obtain. Networking starts and ends with you; it is filling in the middle that is the tricky part. Hopefully these tips will help you to fill in the gap and become a successful networker and business professional.

For more information on Jo DeMarco and Contessa Knows please veiw her contributing author profile.

No comments: