Anita K. Parran
Chair, National Board of Directors, Association for Women in Communications (AWC)
Networking is all about action and process, whether that’s in person or virtually.
Networking is aptly defined as “the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.” The operative words, “action” and “process,”can turn networking into an art form when strategically orchestrated.
First, determine the group that is compatible with objectives and goals. For example, when I relocated to my current home city, I knew no one in my business sphere. So, I identified one organization composed of women representing a myriad of professional disciplines. The organization also was known to host a variety of popular networking opportunities.
The action to get involved was not based on “what’s in it for me.” The objective was to develop important contacts, one by one, and focus on where and how to benefit the organization. The process of letting relationships evolve organically through careful cultivation and nurturing proved fruitful.
When first approaching a targeted individual, listening is more important thantalking because it helps lay the foundation for maintaining a stable relationship. At appropriate times, ask questions, exchange information, and keep in touch often and methodically. To ensure this, be sure to find reasons to stay engaged.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the face of in-person networking. Social media platforms can help us maintain established connections and generate new relationships using the same planning process. Utilizing online venues like Zoom, GoToMeeting, and WebEx lessens the pressure of face-to-face networking, provides flexibility, and can still help maintain connections. The difference is in the frequency of use and messaging. In these instances, prepare as you would if in person.
While all forms of networking can be intimidating and awkward, proper planning can mitigate this. Be your authentic self by being sincere and serving as a connector who helps. “Action” and “process” are operative words when interacting with others to exchange information and develop meaningful contacts. That is the essence of networking.