We all hear that networking plays a vital role in finding and maintaining work. The pressure mounted on students to expand their professional communities is immense. And should be. The media industry especially touts networking as such a necessity. But really, meeting people and making a lasting impression makes a difference in any field. Having a wide resource of many different talents, minds, and perspectives is a benefit.
Jeremy Porter of Journalistics recently posted his advice for building and strengthening your networking community. He approaches it from the angle of journalists and public relations practitioners, but I feel that a lot of his advice can apply to any industry. Whether or not you work in the media, with the community, or within an organization, it’s always great to, as Porter says, “know somebody that ‘does that’ or ‘works there.’” Say you’re going for a research grant to do some work on your dissertation … how great would it be if you already knew some of the people in the loop and they were familiar with the great work you’re doing? You don’t have to be a media guru to benefit from a little schmoozing.
These are three of Porter’s tidbits that I found most intriguing:
Have a Good Opener – you’re going to have to introduce yourself at a networking event. You should be able to answer the “what do you do?” question consistently, with a clear and memorable message. It doesn’t hurt to prepare this statement and practice it – just don’t sound like a robot when somebody asks you (unless of course you are a robot).
I need to do this. I have many thoughts bumbling around in my brain, but I struggle to articulate them without context and explanation. It doesn’t really matter what you do, your interests don’t have to mirror your potential contact. Expression your passion and think of a way to connect it to someone else’s.
Deliver Value – I’m pretty passionate about this point. I regularly scan my contacts to see what ideas pop into my head. If I come across some information that would be interesting to one of my contacts, I share it with them. If I see synergies between people in my network, I share it. If somebody asks me for help, I offer it willingly. Don’t miss the opportunity to pay it forward, you’ll feel great and will find people often reciprocate.
What better way to show people that you care then to reach out and offer something of their interest? And what better way for people to get to know yours?
Everybody is Important – the Barista at Starbucks? She’s working on her MBA and is going to be your boss in five years. The guy working on your car? He’s going to coach your kid’s soccer team next season. And that woman wanting to interview you for her school paper? That’s the CEO’s daughter. Everyone is connected. Never – never ever – assume somebody is not relevant to the type of relationships you’re looking to build today. You never know who will be important, so assume everyone is.
Honestly, I think this is a good life lesson. We should really all treat each other as valued, important individuals that be of benefit to someone else. This statement is also related to Porter’s advice: “Don’t Judge.” Even if you don’t connect with someone you meet as a friend, you never know how you could help each other out in the future. Let’s treat the whole world like a potential resource of friends willing to lend their skills for the benefit of others.
Go here to read the rest of Porter’s insight and think how it could apply to your life.