September 20, 2010

Networking for Best Practices

My friend Eric was just promoted to a position that will require him to network. His first assignment is to attend a conference and network with users of a new system the company will install. Eric was not happy about this. “That is not the way I like to learn something new” he grumbled. He proceeded to tell me that he prefers to read manuals and learn things on his own, not talking to other people.

Networking for best practices benefits everyone regardless of how you typically learn. Eric can add networking to his usual learning method by considering the experiences of others as he learns his new system. When you learn something new you are starting at zero. This may mean a blank page or mounds of data or information which may seem overwhelming. When things are overwhelming we procrastinate or worry about ever mastering the new concepts. Gaining the experience of others gives us a “boost” in our learning and application. Eric can ask questions such as “what are the benefits of this system”, “what are the system limitations”, “how you are using the system”, “what features are you using”, and “what is the best source of training or information that you found about the system?” Networking for best practices accelerates your learning curve by benefiting from someone else’s experience and their “trial and error.”
Networking is a popular concept right now. Job seekers use it in their job searches, sales people use it for referrals and everyone seems to use it for social networking. The popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter provide opportunities to keep in touch with friends and family through sharing experiences and photos. Why not use networking to improve your business knowledge and find opportunities to partner with others who have common interests?

Here are a few ideas, both face-to-face and virtual, to get you started in best practice networking:

1) Create a LinkedIn Account: is a business-oriented social networking site. By setting up a free account you have access to join special interest groups. These groups are a terrific source to post questions and answers on business topics of interest to you. Be a good partner by helping others not just posting questions.

2) Join Professional Associations: Just about every profession and industry has a professional association. These associations offer opportunities to network during scheduled events, meetings, speaker presentations and online discussion forums.

3) Attend Professional Conferences: Just like my friend Eric will find out this month, attending conferences are a great way to network with professionals with common interests. A good method for follow up is to collect business cards. On the cards indicate not only what type of contact they are for you, but also what you can do for them.

“The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person's needs ahead of their own.” ~Bob Burg author and speaker

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