Networking: How much is too much?
If everyone is networking, building their contact list and attending events, how can you possibly stand out? Is there such thing as too much networking?
By Vicky Willenberg, Social Media and Communications Manager, TurningPoint Executive Search
Whether you are a business development professional, CEO, owner of a small business or simply laying the groundwork for a prosperous career, you had better be networking. It’s as simple as that. Not only is networking essential for marketing your business or product, but it is the key to promoting your own personal and professional brand. But what is networking? Is it joining the local Chamber of Commerce or Toastmasters chapter? What about attending the monthly mixers hosted by the biggest companies in your industry? Do trade associations count as networking groups? Is it enough to network within your own company by attending the Monday Night Football party hosted in the conference room? If everyone is networking, building their contact list and attending events, how can you possibly stand out? Is there such thing as too much networking?
The answer is no, there is no such thing as too much networking – so long as you have a plan and a goal. However, there are plenty of examples of the wrong kind of networking or inefficient networking. Here are some suggestions that will help you get the most out of your networking efforts.
First, keep in mind the primary reason for networking. Ultimately, what you are looking to do is create a pool of reliable and diverse professionals with whom you can share information, bounce ideas/issues off, and with whom you can build long-term professional relationships. The key here is in the wording: a reliable and diverse network of professionals. It is up to you to determine what this means, however. Attending 3 events per week, focusing on groups that cater to lawyers and bankers, may not necessarily be a good use of your time. On the other side, aligning yourself with a group full of CEOs and business owners might not be the right target either. Only you can determine which groups will be truly beneficial, based on who it is you are trying to meet, and what gap you are trying to fill. Attending a diverse range industry specific and professional networking groups will build the most effective and broad base of connections, so try to mix it up a bit.
Second, commit to a few groups that really resonate with your professional goals, and attend those regularly. If you are connected to the alumni chapter from your college, commit to showing up at their monthly mixers. If you are finance professional, commit to attending the local CFO Roundtable, FEI or CPA events. These are the groups that will allow you to build strong relationships and these people will be your biggest advocates. In addition, these are the places you can establish a solid name and reputation for yourself, your business and your brand.
Third, don’t continue networking if you feel you have already built out your contact list. As a professional services firm, our goal is to have 3 strong referrals in any given category – 3 attorneys, 3 bankers, 3 CPAs, etc. This allows us to be a solid referral source for our contacts and clients, and we can quickly provide 3 solid introductions to anyone who asks. Once this list is built out, it may be time to shift gears and focus more on personal/professional development, and less on the art of “adding connections”. It will always be a balance, but again, be sure you are networking for the right reasons, today and in the future.
Lastly, do not use networking events to simply sell your wares. Take the time to really connect with people. Ask questions and engage in conversations that allow you to get to know people. Just exchanging business cards is not valuable networking. A good portion of tonight’s business cards will line the bottom of tomorrow’s trash can. Establishing a relationship, meeting 1-on-1 and and connecting through conversation is a much more meaningful way to network. The best way to stand out is to be genuine, offer to help before asking for support, and follow through on your commitments.
Our professional lives are extremely busy and the demands are high. We no longer work 9-5, sitting behind a desk 5 days/week. In order to get a professional leg up, there are many hoops to jump through. We must be innovative and willing to collaborate. We need to bring our A Game and if we are going to invest our time in professional development, it’s important that we do so in a way that adds value. Your time is a precious commodity so use it in a way that will yield the results you are looking for.
About the Author:
Vicky Willenberg is the Social Media & Communications Manager at TurningPoint Executive Search. She supports the senior team with its social media initiatives, research, database management and administration. She is also a professional blogger, writing about her personal life experiences. To learn more about TurningPoint visit- http://www.turningpointsearch.net/