When you hear the word “networking” what automatically comes to mind? A room full of progressive, professional individuals all suited in booted in their corporate best – maybe sipping on glasses of chardonnay and nibbling on various imported cheese and crackers. And perhaps everyone is engaging in surface-like conversation while exchanging business cards with one another in hopes of building some sort of instant connection that will maybe lead to a new job, a business venture, friendship and maybe even a romantic relationship. Well, that is a small portion of what networking is all about. In chapter 6 of my book I define networking as the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.

 

Now, many folks have a misconception about networking because they feel that networking doesn’t really work so they really think it’s a waste of time. Well, the reason why it’s a waste of time is because after you have exchanged the business cards and engaged in conversation-what do you do next? Most people take those business cards and conversations and throw them into the trash. However, what is supposed to happen after the networking is FOLLOW THROUGH. That’s right I said it FOLLOW THROUGH!!! What do I mean? For example, a few years back I was at a birthday party for a friend and met this guy at her party who worked for the University of Phoenix. At the time I was unemployed and in desperate need of a job. He gave me his business card and told me to e-mail him my resume. Wait for it!!! I followed through on what he asked me to do. I didn’t wait even 24-hours before I sent him a nice e-mail with my resume attached. About 2 weeks later I got a job. It was all about the follow through.

 

Another part of networking is being involved in the right organizations like fraternities, sororities, alumni chapters, business organizations etc…Some people feel that being in some of these organizations is a waste of time. Well, yes you are right it is a waste of time if you have no strategy behind being a part of these organizations. Currently, I am a member of 3 organizations. Now, I didn’t join these organizations just for the fun of it. I joined them because I have a goal in mind. I am trying to build my brand and I know that through these various organizations I will be able to do that. Additionally, these organizations provide me with a platform to help others in various capacities. It also gives me the opportunity to meet some key stakeholders who are decision makers or who have influence within the community.  Let me give you an example, as you all know I am unemployed at the moment.  I was recently, at a very productive meeting with my organization – Atlanta Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce (shameless plug). This meeting consisted of some heavy hitters within our community. During the meeting, I was able to talk about myself and my book. After the meeting, various individuals came up to me asking for my business card and inviting me to come and speak at their places of employment. Additionally, I was asked if I was in the market for a job? And if I was, they wanted me to forward my resume on to them. Once again…wait for it…..I what? FOLLOWED THROUGH. I didn’t event wait 24-hours before I sent my e-mails to my new contacts and forwarded them my resume. I’m telling you networking or for a better phrase building strategic relationships does work – but you have to follow through. And my suggestion is that while the conversation and contact is fresh in your mind that you follow up with your contact within 24-48 hours. I am a testament that following up with your new contacts does work. You have to be open to the possibilities of  what may come out of these new contacts because you never know it could be a new job, a new partnership and maybe a new relationship!