What is the difference between fishing and networking? Well, basically, just like fishing, the process of meeting people, sustaining the relationship, and then engaging in business is something that requires a lot of patience. Networking is not a one-time engagement that would just require professional business cards; it is a process that has to be nurtured for it to grow. Ask yourself: Do you expect to catch fish the moment you cast your line? Just like casting for fish, the process of meeting people, staying in touch, and then asking for their business is something that requires patience and practice.
I know of this person who decided to cancel his membership in a professional organization because as he says, he was not getting the right referrals to land him his dream job. He claims that his referrals were, at best, coincidental. What this meant to him was that he was getting the referrals from one person knowing another. With this misguided reasoning, this person did not sign up again to be part of that professional organization.
This raises a valid question: Despite these coincidental situations, is networking something you can count on as a means of landing a good job or business? Is it stable? The most simplistic answer to that would be, yes, it is.
It must be understood however, that networking is a long and tedious process. I mean reaping the benefits from an effort to establish rapport may take a while. It is very much like sowing seeds, nurturing it to grow until finally it bears fruit. Hence, when it comes to networking, one has to be patient and persevering; otherwise, you will just quit and think that it is not giving you the results that you expect.
Networking is not a one way street. I mean you just don't give out your professional business cards, do you? You also expect one to hand a business card to you. It is not just about getting some; it is also about giving. It is not always the getting; but more importantly, it is the giving. If you're thinking, ‘I should get something from it,' then that is indeed a myopic view of networking. It is time to put that idea to rest. Reciprocity is everything in networking.
Think of giving in the context of reciprocity. This is what builds trust and confidence. For instance, if you hear of a good shop where to order business cards, by all means, share this secret with people in your network. If you hear of a job opening that would be well-suited for members of your network, draft an email and send everyone the job description. When you pass on this kind of information to others, colleagues will become more confident with you. It may in fact bring in more prospects who want to work with you.
Call it the karma of reciprocity: when you do good things for others, those good things will find a way of making their way back to you. Even if it seems that you're not directly benefiting from you're giving to others, take note of all the other business that just happens to come your way.
And the best part is your network can be working for you all the time. This means you can have several networks going on at the same time: professional association, the old college or high school network, your village association, etc. These are all networks that have the potential to bring in more business and career advancement for you.
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