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Make Networking a Way of Life

In this economy in which large companies are growing at a slower pace than in the past and given the highly transactional marketplace, workers are changing jobs more frequently either by choice or by necessity. People who previously have targeted only large corporations are looking elsewhere, often to smaller companies. This job climate makes networking even more important. Now, more than ever, it is a necessity, not an option.

But because time is truly a precious commodity for many professional women, networking, unfortunately, has often been put on the back burner. The busier the woman, the more networking has lagged behind in priorities. Often it has been done only sporadically for a pointed purpose. Or it has been done in an ad hoc way when convenient. In both cases, women have missed tremendous opportunities to grow their careers exponentially. Professional women can no longer afford to neglect this critical, strategic career builder.

There are many preconceived notions about networking, including the “right reasons” to network. The truth is everyone can (and should) network, and each will have her own legitimate reasons for doing so. Those who truly excel at networking, and therefore benefit the most, understand that networking is a way of life. Others use networking as a sporadic strategy that is only followed when you have a specific or urgent need.

Think of it like dieting; people usually begin diets when they want to lose weight—perhaps for a special occasion like a wedding or reunion or because of a dangerous health issue. While they might succeed with the diet initially, the results are usually only temporary. When the diet ends, the weight comes back. If, however, someone who wants to lose weight commits to making healthy eating and exercise a lifestyle, the results are far more likely to last.

By the same token, a professional woman who only networks when she needs to get new clients, find a new job or make new friends will not enjoy long-term success. Only by taking the time to grow those relationships, build a solid reputation and help others as a part of her lifestyle will she be effective at networking.

For professional women, there is no easy answer to the challenge of finding the time to network. The best place to start may be by making sure you have the right mindset.

Network IS:

  • A verb. It is active, ongoing pursuit that requires a commitment.
  • A process. You will not necessarily see results immediately; it will take time and consistency for you to achieve your goals.
  • A two-way street. It is a give-and-take relationship and you must be willing to help people as much (if not more) than they help you.
  • An opportunity to change your career or change your life.
  • A lot of work and also a lot of fun.

Network is NOT:

  • A noun. While it is valuable to have database of contacts, it is what you do with those contacts that really counts.
  • An occasional activity. It must be a part of your lifestyle to be truly effective.
  • Cold calling or sales. It is about real relationships, not meeting prospects.
  • Schmoozing or working a room. While you can utilize events for excellent networking opportunities, this is just one small piece of the puzzle.
  • Rocket science. Anyone in any profession or stage of life can improve her ability to build strong relationships through networking.

Once you have a full understanding of what networking really is, you can better develop a strategy for making it an attainable, effective, and enjoyable part of your professional life.

By Marny Lifshen for