What is Networking?
“It is the process of developing and using your contacts for information, advice and moral support as you pursue your career. It’s linking the people you know to the people they know in an ever-expanding communications network...It’s helping each other to become more effective in the work world...” - Mary Scott Welch.
Your main networking goal is to create mutually supportive professional relationships. In that regard, networking in a mentoring relationship can benefit both partners. You never know where career help may come from or what form it may take, and the mentoring relationship provides both partners with an opportunity to expand their networks. Welch, M. S. (1980). Networking. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace and Jovanovich. See also: Krannich, R., & Krannich, C (1996). Dynamite networking for dynamite bobs: 101 interpersonal, telephone, & electronic techniques for getting job leads, interviews, and offers. Manassas Park, VA: Impact Publications.
Mentors and mentees should assess their current networks at the start of the mentoring relationship and use the following information to further develop their networking systems:
- Information – A network is your conduit to the kind of information you need to advance your career...or to discover creative career possibilities.
- Referrals – Sometimes the best information is knowing who to call.
- Feedback – A network helps you check out your behavior, your ideas, and your strategies for success before you risk them in the “real world.”
- Time –Networking takes a lot of time; time for “getting-to-know-you” conversations, scheduling meetings, and renewing contacts.
Tracking Your Network
- Keep Records of Contacts – Notes with brief information about each, referrals they may have made, promises you made to provide information, etc.
Topics of Discussion in Networking
- Career Information –Ask for information about the career field, but don’t ask for a job or internship. However, sometimes the information will lead you in that direction.
- Common Interests – Consciously look for common ground, professional interests, and attitudes. This requires that you share a little of yourself.
- Accomplishments –Learn to talk comfortably about your own accomplishments.
What Not to Discuss
- Criticisms – Do not talk about other professionals or previous colleagues in a critical manner. The only exception is when you are specifically asked to give your opinion of someone AND you are absolutely sure that your opinion will be kept confidential.
- Family/personal matters – This is a professional network; know the boundaries.
- Gossip – Don’t violate professional confidences or abuse inside information.
Dos and Don’ts of Networking
- Do try to give as much as you get.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.
- Do report back (Did you follow their advice? What happened?)
- Do follow up all referrals.
- Do be businesslike. Be prompt, respect other’s schedules.
- Don’t pass up any opportunities to network – they can happen in the most unlikely places.
- Do keep in touch with your old networks (you may go back that way again).
- Don’t expect your network to function as a placement office.
- Do call members of your network for “no reason at all.” Keeping in touch is a reason.
- Don’t be discouraged if someone brushes you off. It happens – and usually has nothing to do with you.
- Do ask questions for which you really need the answers; not for things you easily could have looked up yourself.
- Do keep expanding your network.