Many people I know consider networking to be phony, selfish and a colossal waste of time. I’ve attended plenty of events that fit that description. But networking is still a way to be of service to others, get to know other people, grow your business and uncover the “hidden” job market.
Last month I was heading downtown for a meeting and I noticed something interesting at the bus/train terminal: I was mobbed by political candidates and their supporters that were shaking hands and handing out pamphlets. I even shook the hand of the winning candidate in a very close political race. After a few moments, I realized why she was there… it was the day before the primary election.
These days I’m more cynical than ever about politics…the Chicago airwaves have been loaded with commercials from candidates who promise to represent their citizens and be their voice. There’s so much mud being slung, I feel like I need a shower.
I thought back to the candidate whose hand I shook that day: even though I wanted her to win because I felt she was the best choice, the handshake seemed hollow. Would she be standing there shaking my hand if she didn’t need my vote?
I think networking is much the same way. We work hard adding new contacts to our LinkedIn profiles and new business cards to our collection. But how many of us keep in touch with our existing contacts before we need their help? To me, this is one of the most important aspects of networking.
Whether you’re working or in transition, make it a point to get in touch with those friends or acquaintances in your network that you haven’t talked to in a while. Let them know what you’re up to and if there’s any way you can help them. Networking isn’t just about building new relationships its also about maintaining them.
Alright, sorry to sound preachy. I write this post not as an expert, but as someone who has felt like I’ve talked to my network too many times in moments of need and not enough times in moments of strength or when I didn’t need a favor.
How about you…what person from your past have you had coffee with lately? Who have you been meaning to get in touch with just to say hi?
Flickr Creative Commons illustration courtesy of Aiden Jones.