It is happening millions of times each day. In the work place, at home, at the club, in restaurants, supermarkets, churches, on planes, trains and boats; on the golf course, on street corners and even at the beach.
It's aided by business cards, modern technology, fax machines, voice mail, letters, advertisements, gifts and meetings. It involves sales people, volunteers, singles, travelers, business people, professionals, employees, organization members, hobbyists, retired people and family members.
It helps people solve problems, find jobs, get promoted, acquire clients and patients, enlist volunteers, develop hobbies, improve their love lives, make more money and become more successful. What is this pervasive communications phenomenon? It's networking.
Networking: Defined And Refined
Almost everyone at one time or another has used some form of networking. Yet only in recent years has this system of extensive personal contacts been defined and refined.
Networking has been defined as a system used to develop contacts among business people. John Naisbitt, futurist and author of the bestseller Megatrends, that sold millions of copies describes networking as, 'People talking to each other, sharing ideas, information and resources. Networks are structured to transmit information in a way that is quicker, more energy efficient, more high tech than any other process we know.
Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps, authors of The Networking Book defined networking as "a web of freestanding participants cohering through shared values and interests. Networking is people connecting with people, linking ideas and resources." Fred Smith, in his book, You and Your Network, refers to networking as "organized assistance."
In more technical language, behavioral scientists describe networks as "loosely organized systems" or those communications systems where there are personal attachments. These definitions can be summed into two words: disciplined acquaintanceship.
"Acquaintanceship" gives the definition broad coverage. This version of networking is not just the traditional networking primarily used among business people or within the "old boys" school. Networking is not used exclusively for making money, although making money is often the by-product of effective networking. It is a process by which we make personal contacts to help us achieve success.
The Three P's Of Networking
Networking is a Positive process. It is about developing Personal relationships among the various levels of people with whom one is involved on a regular basis. These elements in combination produce a kind of Power networking which leads to increased success, both professionally and socially.
Beyond Personal Networks
In addition to networks composed of personal relationships, there are many other kinds of networks where people and organizations work together as units. A unit is a loose collection of identifiable groups with similar aims or goals or highly structured businesses under a common umbrella. Typically, you will find networks among employees in corporations, small teams and other decentralized units, networks among similar businesses and professions, information networks and networks of people with like interests. You'll recognize many of them by the name "network" in their titles.
There are many business organizations whose names begin with "network." Commonly known business networks are the TV networks. Many business and professional associations are really networks on a formal and structured basis. Although these group networks accomplish much the same goals as personal networks, they tend to be self-limiting to narrower interests - people interested in particular subjects or activities.
How Networking Evolved
Networking, in one form or another, has been around almost since the beginning of time. It's only in recent years that the concept has been formally acknowledged.
With the advent of internet, smartphones, sophisticated computer technology and a host of other electronic wizardry, new techniques have evolved to provide instant access to not only the names of the people in your networks, but to the people themselves.
In Megatrends, author John Naisbitt describes networking as one of the ten new directions transforming our lives. In his later book Re-Inventing the Corporation, Naisbitt suggests, "The top down authoritarian style is yielding to a networking style of management, where people learn from one another horizontally, where everyone is a resource for everyone else and where each person gets support and assistance from many different directions."
Author Tom Peters said: "Are you devoting the bulk of your marketing effort, dollars and energy to activating a word-of-mouth network? Are all of your salespeople devoting a specific and sizeable share of time to user network development and expansion? Is every employee a conscientious network developer among his or her colleagues? If you answer 'no' to any of these questions, you may be turning your back on your highest-leverage market-development activity."
Networking Versus Schmoozing
Writer Diana E. Lundin defines schmoozing as, "friendly, gossipy conversation, often with undertones of promoting an agenda," and suggests that schmoozing is a way to sweeten a sales pitch. However, not many agree with the definition. Schmoozing is strictly an in-person technique - to be used during the cocktail party, luncheon, golf date, trade show or convention. Networking, although it includes schmoozing as an important element, is far more comprehensive, embracing a wide variety of tools and techniques.
Can You Really Network Your Way To Success?
Yes. You definitely can network your way to success. The amount of success, however, depends on your personal goals and initiative. Do you want to get ahead in your job? Do you want to make more sales? Do you want to increase your circle of friends? Do you want to find a mate? Do you want to participate more fully in an organization? Do you need special information or help? Do you want to always be able to find just the right person to do a particular job? Are you willing to spend time developing and maintaining a list of contacts...and then spend time working that list?
Though they may not lay claim to the title, most successful people are good networkers. They have the same needs and desires that you have, and they are willing to regularly devote time to the networking process.
To achieve both business and social success you need to take advantage of a well organized database, the planned use of business cards, all available technology, the Internet, the smartphones, direct mail, public relations efforts, greetings, memos, newsletters and other techniques, you can favorably increase your visibility, and access people who can help you become successful.
Not only will you learn how to use the tools of networking, but you will also read fascinating stories about highly successful people who have used these same tools to reach their goals and achieve business and personal success.
Best of all, networking need not be expensive in either money or time. Most of the tools are already available to you, and with a little organization you'll be surprised at how easily you'll find the necessary time to be a disciplined networker.
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