A few hours of your time per month.  That’s the price for building a network.  Networking is hands down one of the top three elements for success.  Why is it so many people decide to let it fall to the bottom of the priority list?

Men do it all the time.  They get together for golf, at the country club, at exclusive dining clubs, cigar clubs, etc.  They come together to shoot the breeze, chip some balls, and do business.  They seem to do it seamlessly.  Women for some reason, aren’t as focused on networking, or shall I say the true value behind networking.  Men do it without giving it a name.  They put in the time, get to know their peers or counter parts, and they make things happen.  No really, understand what I’m saying here.  Women network, but not like men.  We are often pushed into it and out of our comfort zones.  I don’t know. For some reason, women feel that they cannot safely network, especially with other women.  I guess they think someone will steal their idea, turn on them, steal a client, or whatever.  Women also get so caught up in being all things to everybody (mom, businesswomen, corporate executive, student, etc) that they feel they don’t need to network.  This is especially true for Black Women.  Yes sisters, I’m telling it like it is.  I see it first hand every day.

I am blessed and fortunate that I forced myself to learn how to network.  I’m a Recruiter by trade so it’s par for the course, occupational hazzard.  But I have learned along the way that my sisters don’t take networking too seriously.  As you know, I started a network for Black Women to network.  And it has been wonderful, now that I have tightened the criteria for joining the network.  There are wonderful women from all backgrounds, levels of responsibility, locations, companies, etc.  But a lot of them don’t feel comfortable networking just yet.  That is why I go out of my way to facilitate networking opportunities.  Right now, we are all coming together to master networking amongst ourselves before moving on to networking with others.  It’s coming along.  I had to remove some folks who signed up and never again returned or participated.  And when asked, the response was “I’m just too busy”.  Sad.

It really doesn’t take that much to network.  You set a purpose, list the people or types of people you want to connect with, and reach out.  The worse they could say is “No”.  Most times, people are glad you reached out to them if you have a stated purpose for your initial contact.  Sites linked Viadeo, Linked In, Facebook are godsends.  But they create a safety net.  As long as you can shoot an email, why should you bother getting to actually know a person.  Heaven forbid picking up a phone to introduce yourself to Bob who just linked to you on Linked In.  It’s not that hard.  You shouldn’t use online sites as the core of your networking, only reaching out by email to connect or when you have a problem that needs to be solved.  Develop relationships.  Get to know the people you connect with.  You might find you have some things in common.  Don’t wait for the annual conferences to tell people about yourself or to find out about them.  Follow up often (perhaps quarterly like i do). People like to help or do business with people they are familiar with.  Remember that.

My next conference call for my networking group is on September 4th.  I’ve decided to make it an interesting exercise to encourage more connections.  I don’t want to disclose anything just yet, but I’ll keep you posted on the results.  Next week, I’ll be meeting some of my Atlanta connections (men and women) for the first time ever.  I am very excited about it and can’t wait to sit down and break bread with my Linked In connections to get to know them better.  I’ll let you know how that went too.

So bottom line is relationships and networks get you where you need to be and what you want faster than going it alone.  It only costs you some time.  Pick up a phone.  Go to the golf course.  Attend networking events.  Ask for introductions.  Introduce yourself.  Just start networking.

How much are you is it worth to you?

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

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