Build Your Business Through Smart Networking By Andrea Nierenberg 

Many of us still have a negative perception when we hear the word “networking” and as I always say, it’s a misunderstood word. My theory is that good networking skills build links and alliances with people we meet along our career path. “The opposite of networking is not working”—you can learn from everyone you meet and also be a resource to them. If you are lucky, down the road something may come back.

 1. Is networking just about finding customers and growing one’s business?
Networking is all about developing and building relationships first. When this happens with hard work and sincerity, customers will come. It’s like a garden. When you meet new people for the first time, it’s like planting a seed. When you stay in touch by meeting for coffee or sending a holiday card, it’s like watering the seeds. Finally when there is a genuine reason for you to have a closer working relationship or friendship, it’s like the harvest. Remember we can plant and we can water—however the growth is a natural and organic process. You cannot rush it. One needs to think win/win and patience. I look at each connection I make as how I can help or refer that person. The biggest joy is when I put someone in touch with someone else and they do business together. Three of my major corporate clients took over three years to develop-lots of staying in touch, patience and finally an opportunity to work on an assignment. Each has turned into multiple referrals within the organization. The goal is stay in front of people, to be on their radar screen as a thank you. I do this with my electronic tips of the month, my quarterly newsletter and a variety of articles.

2. What has been the biggest “negative” that I have heard about networking?
The top complaint that came from a national survey that my company did was about people who act like they are trying to sell you something-right when they meet you. They pounce on you and tell you only about themselves and don’t have any interest in you. Another complaint is about people who lose interest if they don’t think you can help them—the people who figure they only need to “network” when they NEED a job or business. The key is always to give first. Be a resource-go through your database and think how you can help the other person. Every day, get in touch with three people just to say hello. I do this systematically. It could be as simple as sending an article including a note saying “I haven’t spoken to you in a while, and thought you might be interested in this.” Or let them know about an event they might enjoy, or congratulate them on a recent accomplishment. Keep it sincere, short and make it about them—not about you.

 To read the rest of this article, check out the Winter 2008 Issue of WE Magazine for Women.