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Who to know, where to go—a guide to networking

It's not what you know; it's who you know. How many times have you heard that? To a certain extent it's true and networks are a great way to generate support for and involvement in your organisation, issue or action.

Submitted 4/10/2006 By Thea Views 13031 Comments 0 Updated 5/11/2009

 


Photographer : Editor B @ flickr

 

Networking is not about being seen at the right parties or handing out a lot of business cards. It's about maintaining contact with people and keeping each other in the loop about things you're all interested in. Keep in mind that networking is a two-way street; you help your contacts and they help you.

The formula

Networking = talking to people about what they do + finding out how this relates to your organisation or interests + adding them to your list of 'contacts' + staying in touch.

Ways to network

Here are some examples of networking:

  • 'mingling' with different people at meetings and events
  • meeting friends of friends and introducing your friends or workmates to people you think they'd get on well with
  • inviting people you know to events that you think they'd be interested in
  • forwarding emails about work opportunities or social events to people who you think may be interested
  • asking people you know for advice in their area of expertise/interest
  • exchanging contact details or passing on information on behalf of someone else and in turn receiving contacts or info from that person's network
  • following-up with thank-you emails or phone calls when someone does a favour for you
  • keeping in touch with people every now and then and asking them how things are going with whatever it is about them that you're interested in or that could benefit your organisation.

Where to start

If you don't think you can network or are not sure how to start, make a list of all the people you know. Include family members, friends and work colleagues. Next to each name write the names of people they know that you have met. This is your network.

Now write next to each name what the person does for work or what particular interests they have. Highlight the names of people that are connected to people or organisations that you want to know or create links with for your organisation, issue or action.

Stay in touch with these people, offer information and invites to them, encourage them to be involved in your life and they will think of you as work and social opportunities arise.

It's also good to ask people in your network for their advice and opinions. This not only flatters them and shows that you respect and value them; it also gives you the chance to talk about what you're doing and put the idea of you or your organisation at the front of their mind.

Final thing

Remember that even though networking is a defined concept that people talk about practising and improving their skills in, it is best achieved informally. It should never feel or appear to be forced. To begin with you might have to think about networking and it may take up some of your time, but it should happen naturally and become part of your normal interactions with friends and acquaintances.

Thea is completing a Bachelor of Communications (Public Relations) at RMIT University, Melbourne. She was part of the first ActNow Incubator team.