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Networking your network—connecting the dots

Whether you are looking for a new job, looking to hire someone, or looking to expand your skills through volunteer work, the people you know, and the people they know, are one of your best assets.

Merriam-Webster defines networking as “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: 

“the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business”

Experts agree that the best way to cultivate a network is to a) offer to help others first and they will return the favor, and b) work at it before you need it.

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Be genuinely interested in offering to help others first.

We talked about how this practice can enhance your network in a previous post about factors leading to a tight-knit clinical research industry. The Harvard Business Review recommends this approach as well, and also to focus on becoming known and trusted, instead of just trying to fulfill a short-term goal. Be authentic. Be real. Help your colleagues expand their networks and yours will expand as well.

Don’t wait until you need something to start building your network.

A simple way to think about networking is that it is just building and maintaining relationships. Get to know people. Be credible by living up to the expectations you set. Reach out to people on a periodic and regular basis to cultivate trust in long-lasting relationships. Think in terms of long-term credibility.

The Networking Gurus blog suggests first identifying who is already in your network, then looking at each name on your list and thinking about how you could help them, and how they could help you. Then start contacting every person in your network to re-connect and renew the relationship. Ask for an introduction to others whom you’d like to know.

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Use available tools. Long gone are the days of the Rolodex, but even today, with powerful online tools available to us, most people underutilize them. LinkedIn is a popular social media tool for expanding your professional network. According to Pamela Vaughan, of HubSpot, LinkedIn is a powerful platform with many unique hidden features to help you connect with new and existing contacts, but people often don’t maximize its capabilities. Look here for tips on how to use this social networking tool.

So, don’t wait! Call or send an email to someone in your network that you haven’t touched base with in a while. Make a goal to reach out to at least one person a week to strengthen those relationships.

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