Networking: What can you do?

Heather White, CEO of The Magic of Networking Ltd., a training, consulting and coaching firm that specializes in career and corporate networking, was my interview subject on my mission to transform you all into Office Goddesses.
Networking can be a difficult task for women. What’s the point? It’s all about eating the fat and drinking with people you don’t really know. It’s much better to get out and be great project managers and deliver things.
Building a successful career is not about what you do, but who you know. Here’s Heather’s take on the topic.
Heather, why should we care so much about networking?
Let’s not forget to say, before we start, let’s get rid of the word networking. Replace it with something like, your development of your career or building key relationships well, any relationship. Why should you care? Because I assume you care about your career, and the people you need to connect to.
The art of networking is not about keeping people informed about your work, your talents and how you can help others. It’s a two-way street. Your boss and other employees need to know more about you than just your job.
What is the value of long-term relationships?
Do you agree that everyone has a career path that spans over 40-years? Most people spend around 80% of their careers within the same field, i.e. project management etc. This means that you will find yourself in the same circles throughout your career. Their reputation and yours are both on the same journey. Your career will be much more successful if you have the mindset of building and nurturing long-term relationships with these people. This is where trust, reputation, and brand are born.
We also need to network with people outside our companies, not just those within our own company. What is the difference between networking internally or externally?
There is no difference between the ‘act’ and the ‘act’. You should focus on what networking can do for you. All networking should be inclusive of external networking, not just internal networking. This is a mistake. You need external contacts for your career development, personal development, profile, knowledge, competitor intelligence, customer intelligence etc.
Drop me an email ([email protected]) and I will send you a brilliant article written in the Harvard Business Review about how leaders network and it includes a networking structure, strategy if you like that will be useful to anyone networking not matter your status.
Events with lots of people are a great place to build relationships. What is your top tip for managing a room?
BIG question. We just released an eBook entitled How to Work a Room. It contains over 300 top tips and tricks on how to do this. Drop me an email and I will send you a free copy ([email protected]). One top tip? That’s a big ask. If I said to relax and have fun, people who don’t like attending events will laugh at me and say “yeah right”. Networkers who are highly skilled have different needs. It is best to download the eBook and then go through it.
Okay, that’s fine. However, in this case, what’s the problem with handing out business cards?
There is nothing wrong with the right context. It is perfectly acceptable to hand out your business card. You need to be aware of when you should not do it. If you don’t have a positive/good relationship with the group members (or the person you’re speaking to), you shouldn’t hand out your card. You could be perceived as pushy, sales-like, or superficial. You must avoid making a bad impression. I can almost guarantee that if you don’t connect with people, your card and brand/reputation will be thrown out.
You know what to do.