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Plugging in: networking skills that promise success.


Every job I've ever been hired for I've gotten because an associate told me about an opening or someone referred me. I've always gotten my jobs through somebody I know," says Melvin Murphy, author of the forthcoming book It's Who You Know! Creating Mentor-Based Alliances, Coalitions and Partnerships through Networking (New Visions; $26.95). "Knowing the right people will help you become the power elite," he offers. In other words, effective networking in which relationships are developed with people in strategic positions can yield productive results.

"We do know that statistically 85%-90% of people looking for employment get new jobs through networking contacts. We also know that word of-mouth through networks and key connectors is the way people grow their businesses," Melissa Giovagnoli points out, She is the co author of Networking: Building Relationships and Opportunities for Success (Jossey Bass; $25). Networking is a networking model that Giovagnoli developed more than a decade ago, after finding the traditional method of networking superficial and futile. She called it a "haphazard process of making contacts to achieve short-term and often one-sided goals." Instead, she instructs others on how they can intentionally build mutually beneficial relationships. With this model of building contacts, you're not always calling someone for help. There is a balance of asking for and giving help. In fact, the experts agree that the whole point of networking is to develop meaningful, win-win relationships before you even think about asking for job referrals.

"People used to look at networking as 'what's in it for me and what can I gel out of [this] situation?'" explains Joe Watson, CEO and owner of StrategicHire, an executive search firm in Reston, Virginia. "The smartest people understand that networking is really about doing for other people and that in doing for other people, conversely they will want to help you." Assistance may come in the form of shared information, resources, ideas, talent, or collaboration.

For Glynda Mayo Hall, it has meant 11 years of brokering partnerships between local businesses, faith and civic organizations, schools, and human services programs. With more than 1,000 names in her Outlook database, Mayo Hall, the resource development manager for the Fairfax County Office of Partnerships, is a consummate networker in her professional and personal life. The alliances that she has brought together in her job have recently led to medical care for children who may have otherwise been ignored. She has also received computers and 14 computer training facilities for families without the means. Mayo Hall also attributes success in her own career to these skills. "Networking moved me through a lot. of different circles," she says.

While our experts agree that building alliances and partnerships is a very necessary part of anyone's career--whether a recent college graduate, business owner, or CEO--many people admit that they are not very good at it. There is definitely an art to networking.

"It goes way beyond passing on your resume. You need to build partnerships before you need them. There's no way you can get to where you're trying to go by yourself. And once you get there, you don't want to be there by yourself." says Murphy. "It's very hard to get famous in your own backyard. You have to have a strategy," he adds. Murphy warns that there is no magic potion that will teach you how to network.

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The following are suggestions for developing and organizing contacts to start you on your way to building deeper, more meaningful strategic alliances, partnerships, and mentors:

1 Stand out from the crowd. Creating a visible identity requires understanding the 12 x 12 x 12 rule. "This takes into account how you look to another person from the first 12 feet away. Do you look the part? The first 12 inches away, [do you look] as good up close as you did [from afar]? Are you organized? Can you find your business cards easily? Do you have your calendar to schedule appointments? What are the first 12 words out of your mouth? Are you engaging them?" says Brian Hilliard, author of Networking Like a Pro! (Agito Consulting; $9.95) The 12 x 12 x 12 rule takes into account your demeanor, attire, body language, and how other people perceive you. Since people form an impression within the first 20 seconds of a meeting, all or these factors impact their ability to remember you.

2 Expand your knowledge base, Accepting new opportunities and challenges will not only make you more marketable, it will ultimately expand your connections. This may mean serving on an organization's board, running for an association office, or taking a continuing education class and developing new skills. But this also means educating yourself as much as possible about information that is pertinent to your industry, "Not just the surface knowledge. You want to be able to speak like an expert about things in that industry or on a particular subject," says Murphy. "You might want to start writing articles for association newsletters, magazines, and newspapers. When you start writing and doing the research you become more confident about your subject matter." Murphy advises

3 Make the right connections. When it comes to exchanging business cards, it is best to wait until your card is requested before you offer it. "There is no better way to measure your success as a networker than to look at the number of people who ask you for your card," says Hilliard.

4 Be prepared to manage relationships. So now you've got a box full of business cards from people you've met at the various networking sessions, organizational meetings, or luncheons you've attended. Giovagnoli suggests creating a network that consists of a diverse mix of individuals at different position levels that you like, trust, and respect These relationships should be organized in a multilevel group (primary, secondary, and tertiary) according to the frequency of contact, level of exchange, alignment with your goals and values, and type of opportunities developed. This will allow you to focus the right amount of energy on the right people at the right time. The inner circle (primary) would consist of no mere than 10 regular active contacts. The outer circles (secondary and tertiary) would consist of those who lend occasional support--people who would provide useful information on occasion.

5 Examine your motives. You have to ask yourself, "Why do I want to get to know this person?" It should always be about providing a service to someone else. Tried and true networkers can attest to good deeds being reciprocated. "Be honest about it, say, 'I want to build a partnership with you. This is how I can help. This is what I bring to the Labia. This is haw this will benefit you,'" says Murphy. "If you get to the why, the how is simple."
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Title Annotation:Making Connections
Author:Jackson, Lee Anna
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Feb 1, 2004
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