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Take the Work Out of Networking

Sun, Jul 18th, 2010

It has been widely said that it's not what you know, but who you know that makes the difference. And, if you think about it, you likely know more people than you think, especially considering the rise of social networking sites. For many, networking can seem like a full-time job, but it doesn't have to be.

I've found that simply keeping people in your network informed of your goal is a great start. When you're top of mind, people will remember you as they hear of potential opportunities. But, you can't only rely on someone else to make a connection for you. You must be proactive and strategic in building your network.

Here are a few guidelines to follow:

* Make a list of everyone you know and who they know via social networks like LinkedIn. Don't be afraid to ask someone to make an introduction

* Be sure to do your research when meeting someone for the first time both about the individual and the company they represent

* Make a specific ask and communicate your end goal

*Follow through on all referrals

* If you have difficulty getting started, consider joining a professional development organization, like The Men's Club

Many people network only when it becomes a necessity, but networking must be an ongoing process even when you're employed, because tomorrow you might not be. Similar to the relationships I build with key reporters in PR, it's easier to speak with someone you've previously pitched than to make a cold call.

Finally, remember that networking isn't all about you. Make sure to ask people how you can help them. Adopt a 'pay it forward' philosophy and surround yourself with people who do the same. In the end, it will pay dividends.