This is a Networking course by Gerard D. de Gier
‘’’Networking’’’ is more than just having a drink with the colleagues. Within the circle of entrepreneurs, journalists and professional career counsellors, and in many other professional circles, networking is regarded as an all-encompassing activity that rises above the purely social aspect. The following is a clarification for a broader readership.
Although many people do not realize this, we network far more often than we know. Most people have negative feelings about networking because they think it somehow invades the privacy of others, and/or uses the circles of friends, relative and business relations in an improper way. But we all make use of people in our network, for example for organizing a babysitter, finding a better room or apartment, coming into contact with people who have the same hobby.
However, networking-for-the-sake-of-networking is a useless activity: there must be a purpose. For journalists this might be finding news, in the career counselling business this is helping people find another job, and, for the self-employed, a way to get jobs and acquire projects. Networking makes sense within organizations as well, as a way to exercise influence without formal authority, to get things done, or to ensure productive cooperation on certain projects. 
Just do it
People talk more about networking than that they actually do something. Especially for those who need to continue their careers elsewhere (by necessity), there appear to be high barriers, especially in those professions with a specialist (technical) component.
However, if you want to be successful on a regular basis, you will have to make it your mentality, your way of life, something you do as a matter of course. So if you need information for example, think first of someone in your network who might have an answer or suggestion before you turn to Google.
To be engaged in networking successfully you must have a clear profile so that you know who you are and what your competence is (and what isn’t). Naturally it is important to know how to present this effectively. Your self-image has a strong bearing on this. The way you see yourself determines to a high degree how you tell your story. But more importantly: others will see you the way you see yourself—you radiate your self-image. And especially this self-image is a problem with many people. Some have an outsized ego (relatively easy to adjust), but many ‘think’ themselves small. Quite rightly the saying goes: “He who makes himself as small as a mouse will be eaten by the cat.”
The preparation for a networking conversation has three stages. Firstly, the market: where can you find the project or job that is suited for you, and what does that market look like? Then, your own preparation: apart from your profile some attractive success stories and a clear presentation of your ideas for the future. Lastly, every individual networking conversation must be solidly prepared. You must know as much as possible about your conversation partner, be well up on the trade or professional environment, have some current material at the ready, and be well informed of the situation of the organization that you visit.
It is well known that each of us knows about five hundred people. It is necessary to make visible these five hundred people in a good inventory. This is done the easiest by first writing down those networks in which you yourself participate, such as family, colleagues, the neighbourhood, sports club, friends, acquaintances, and the like. Apart from that you probably know people who are members of large networks like service clubs (Rotary, Lion, for example), student clubs (or alumni networks), or entrepreneurs’ associations. The people in these networks are eminently suitable to give you more detailed information on, for example, possible clients for your company. They hear a lot and know many people.
Before you begin face-to-face networking, consider brushing up on your social skills. These are skills a social animal uses to interact and communicate with others to assist status in the social structure and other motivations. Social rules and social relations are created, communicated, and changed in verbal and nonverbal ways creating social complexity useful in identifying outsiders and intelligent breeding partners.
Social skills include both verbal and non-verbal communication. Verbal communication will include small talk or conversation, sharing jokes, and discussing ideas, such as politics or business. Non-verbal communication is also very important, and it includes active listening and body language.
Before entering into networking situations, consider how smoothly you deliver conversation, your tone and volume, and your use of vocabulary. Consider your posture. If you are standing up straight, but still looking at ease, you're on the right track.
The networking conversation
Only when you are well prepared does it make sense to start having actual networking conversations. You could meet people anywhere, but especially at the beginning of your networking activities it makes sense to stay close to home so to speak, and start on a relatively low level. Try to gather information on a company where you would like to work by talking with people in your environment. Soon enough you will see that people will refer you to others, which will bring you into contact with people who will be able to give you the information on the organization you are researching.
At first this will be on an informal level, like a birthday party or a reception, but at some point you will find yourself having a real networking conversation. You can give such a conversation a positive swing right at the start by making a perfect first impression. ‘’It is of the essence’’ that you make clear immediately why you are there: ‘’not a project’’, ‘’not a job’’, but ‘’information’’. If you fail to do this, your conversation partner will think early on in the conversation: “This person wants something from me (a job/ a project), this I do not have/cannot give, how do I get rid of him/her as quickly as possible?” Or he/she would be willing to help but can’t, and then the implication of a direct appeal is very embarrassing, and he/she feels conscience-stricken for having to say ‘No’.
Experience teaches that the conversation itself will go smoothly (after a few times), but the closure is often a bit of a stumbling block. Begin by asking for down-to-earth suggestions. When they have been made, the next question is: “Very interesting, who would you suggest that I talk with next on this subject?” Then your conversation partner should name a few names. Finally you ask: “How can I make contact with this/these person/s?”. Needless to say, your conversation partner must be willing to act as an intermediary.
When you have conducted the conversation and you have noted what was discussed in your sytem, do not forget to send an appropriate card or e-mail. There are some who send both: an e-mail the same day in which you thank your conversation partner for his/her time and willingness to see you, for the information and/or direct help; you mention some points that came up and about which you want to make some further remarks, to show that you paid attention to what your conversation partner said. Or you touch upon issues that may have been left unresolved, and about which you may have some further thoughts. In the course of the next day, but no later than about twenty-four hours after the conversation, send a handwritten note expressing your thanks. And should you ever come across something that you think your conversation partner will appreciate, such as a newspaper article from a magazine in his/her field or hobby, send it to him/her without delay. This is also a very effective way to stay in touch. These small attentions are appreciated enormously, and in many cases they will cause people to remember you. And they, in their turn, will be much more inclined to keep you up on developments or invite you for something. 
When you maintain your network within your own organization, this has an immediate effect on how you can inspire your colleagues or team members (or they you); this will benefit the the project or task you are working on: “(...) the ultimate ‘glue’ that binds people is not ‘what they get’ from the organization but what they can contribute to the community.”  “Shared visions have a way of spreading through personal contact.” 
After your conversation, stand in front of the mirror immediately for an evaluation and ask yourself: what went well what could have been done better what information did I obtain what referrals did I receive
And then, when you have that new job or that project, you must trace back your trail and thank the people who helped you along the way. It is essential therefore that you make notes of those conversations, and do so immediately afterwards. Experience teaches that you will remember the last five of those conversations, but none before that. Software like Excel, Outlook, Access, are eminently suitable for this. And when you are ready for a really professional way to do this, try Act!, Archie, Commerce or Filemaker Pro.
We all know a lot of people, but we used to know a great many more. Lack of structured maintenance is the cause of a lot of people simply fade out of the picture. The simplest way to maintain your network is, of course, by actually using it. You can look something up on the Internet, but it is much more pleasant (and better for maintenance) to call or e-mail someone who has that information as well. And besides, people like to be consulted on their specialty or competence.
In spite of social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. personal contact remains an indispensable link in networks. The best evidence for this is that a site like LinkedIn has also started to organize actual get-togethers. “As members of a community, we need to meet in person when we talk about what we really care about.” 
Another thing to remember for your network maintenance is that you provide it with some structure: before you know it you always talk to the same people. But most importantly: “Stay in touch!” Do this in any way you can as long as it is something that is “you”. Try and use your creativity. Some examples of maintenance:
- Offer help (especially unsollicited)
- Attend events with business relations
- Send article or internet link on someone’s hobby
- Sponsor a book
- Unusual Christmas card – use your imagination
- Open your house/office for the neighbourhood
- Call (and then actually do it)
- Appear in newspaper or magazine with your company or profession
- Spring card instead of Christmas card
- Become a member of an entrepreneurs’ association
As we can see from the above, networking is certainly more than just having a drink at the pub.
Literature / further reading
’’Career and networking’’
- L. Alexander, ‘’Career Networking’’, (Oxford 1997)
- Richard Bolles, ‘’What Color is Your Parachute’’ (published annually)
- Gerard D. de Gier, ‘’Netwerken doe je zó’’ (Zwolle, 2006). (in Dutch only)
- R.L. Krannich & C.R. Krannich, ‘’The New Network: Your Way to Job and Career Success’’ (Woodbridge 1993)
- Dr. N. M. Yeager, ‘’CareerMap’’ (New York 1988)
- Charles D.A. Ruffolo, ‘’Network Your Way to Success’’ (Zwolle 2004)
’’Scientific networking theories’’
- Wayne E. Baker, ‘’Networking Smart’’ (New York 1994)
- Nitin Nohria & Robert G. Eccles, ‘’Networking & Organisational Structure, Form and Action’’ (Harvard 1994)
’’Women and networking’’
- Dr. Lily M. Segerman-Peck, ‘’Networking & Mentoring, a Woman’s Guide’’ (London 1991)
- Mary Scott Welch, ‘’Networking, a Great New Way for Women to Get Ahead’’ (Stamford CT 1980)
’’Networking in general’’
- A. Baer & Lynne Waymon, ‘’52 Ways to Re-connect, Follow Up & Stay in Touch’’ (Dubuque 1994)
- L. D. Bjorseth, ‘’Breakthrough networking’’ (Lisle 1996)
- Dale Carnegie, ‘’How to Win Friends and Influence People’’ (reprinted regularly)
- Jan Vermeiren, ‘’Let’s connect’’ (Step by Step - 2007)
- H. Catt, P. Scudamore, ‘’The Power of Networking’’ (London 1999)
- D. Fisher, S. Vilas, ‘’Power Networking’’ (Austin 2000)
- J. Gitomer, ‘’The Little Black Book of Connections’’ (Austin 2008)
- H. Mackay, ‘’Dig Your Well Before You Get Thirsty’’ (New York 1997)
- Susan Roanne, ‘’The Secrets of Savvy Networking’’ (New York 1993)
- J. Smallwood McKenzie, ‘’The 101 Commandments of Networking’’ (privately published ISBN 1-58500-444-8)
- L. Michelle Tullier, ‘’Networking for Everyone’’ (Indianapolis 1998)
- D. Cohen, L. Prusak, ‘’In Good Company: How Social Capital Makes Organisations Work’’ (Harvard 2001)
- J. R. DeLuca, ‘’Political Savvy’’ (Berwyn 1992)
- S. Covey, ‘’The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’’ (New York 1991)
- M. Giovagnoli & J. Carter Miller, ‘’Networlding’’ (San Francisco 2000)
- Allan R. Cohen, David L. Bradford, Influence Without Authority (1991), pp. 17-25.
- Cohen & Bradford, op. cit., pp. 26-44.
- P. Senge et al., The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook (1998), p. 300.
- P. Senge et al., The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook (1998, p. 301.
- Peter Senge et al., ‘’op.cit.’’, p. 301.
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