The Value of Networking
December 14, 2011
By Shannon Johnson, ECC Future Leader
Network. That can be a scary word, no matter which way you use it. A network of buildings downtown is connected through a tunnel system that I constantly get lost in. Ask me to put together a computer network, and you’ll see a very confused and frightened face. However, the one way it can be used that I see a lot of confused faces is as a verb. To network, means to cultivate people who can be helpful. In other words, build relationships.
Now, we all meet new people. We do it every day! We talk with them, maybe learn a little about what they do and the company they work for. But, to network, to build relationships, means taking that initial contact one step further… and requires a bit of action.
Now, that’s usually the part that is either scary or bothersome. Why would you send an email to that person you chatted with at Starbucks? Why would you accept a LinkedIn request from the lady you shared a row with on the plane? The answer is very simple: because you never know.
As a college senior, I found myself struggling to find a job. There were a lot out there, but I could not get a company to call me back. I was full of enthusiasm and energy… just with no place to put it. One day, I was at my friend’s house, complaining about the lack of phone calls. I wondered out loud what it took to get a graduate (with work experience!) to get a simple call back? Not 5 minutes later, her husband walked in the door. He took one look at me and said, “You still looking for a job?” After saying yes, he responded, “Send me your resume. My assistant just quit today.” I worked for that company for 6 years and gained valuable experience.
Now, in my very small post-college network, I was able to get a job out of it. But, after I moved back to Houston in 2006, I had to create a whole new network. And throughout the years, being in contact with each one has helped me in their individual ways. I’ve been introduced to vendors I needed, the ECC Association, and I even met my husband through my business network.
One of the best networking tips I’ve heard and still follow to this day: “Contact one person a day … just to touch base with them.” With social networking sites like LinkedIn, it makes it easy… you can see updates on people in your network such as job changes, promotions… things that make it easy to reach out and keep that relationship alive.
Networking can be scary, but with a little effort, you can build a network that can become invaluable to you. Because no matter what your position, what company you work for, it all boils down to one thing: relationships.