The power of networking done right

“I’m going to the business breakfast for networking.”

Ugh. No wonder “networking” has such a terrible reputation.

You know what constitutes actual networking? Building a set of relationships that makes your working life easier. You have to invest in those relationships, and I don’t mean with bad coffee, terrible presentations, and blatant salesmanship.

Here’s what I wish I had understood when I was starting my career: A strong network means that you have access to resources above and beyond what you know and what your employer provides.

It’s Tuesday. So far this week, I have:

  • Provided some feedback on a new business and received insights into my own business during a meeting with a longtime friend and industry colleague.
  • Made a phone call to ask for help. Got immediate, useful action from that colleague.
  • Discussed a software tool with another colleague via Skype and got to validate each other’s reactions. (There might have been profanity.)
  • Checked in with yet another colleague via text for yet more cattiness.
  • Asked a client for help with a problem unrelated to that client’s project.

I know that when I have issues or questions, I can contact friends and colleagues all over the world for help. And, in turn, they ask me for help with their issues. Not too long ago, I had a call out of the blue from an acquaintance looking for some advice on international travel and training. I was glad to help her because others have helped me. I get emails, instant messages, and phone calls (although rarely phone calls and I much prefer email) asking for resources, introductions, and opinions. And I make those same requests when needed.

“Hey, do you know anything about Shiny New Software?”

“Can you help me find an expert in Obscure Software?”

“Do you know anything about Large Potential Client?”

“I’m looking for project management software that isn’t horrifying. What do you use?”

“Any restaurant recommendations in Your Hometown? I’m going to be there next week; maybe we could meet?”

So build your network because although you are brilliant, you are more brilliant when you allow people to help you. You’ll meet people at work, at professional conferences (you do go to professional conferences??), in taking on volunteer projects, and more.

You’ll discover, as I did, that there is a tribe of technical communication people that also like to knit. Or homebrew. Or something.

Connect with people. Keep in touch. Make an effort. Introduce people to each other when you think it’s appropriate.

Don’t do this (although I will help you if you do):

“Hi,

I know we haven’t talked in several years. I’ve just been laid off. Know of any jobs?”

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