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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Social networking is a topic that is on fire these days.  You have Myspace, Linked In, Facebook, Viadeo, Xing, Twitter, and a host of other social networking sites on the web.  The one thing I find is people rush to sign up for these sites then never do anything with them.  People who are traditionally old school and don’t put social networking high on their list are doing themselves a great disservice.

Now, true that old fashioned networking methods will remain forever and not everyone has the time or is cut out for social networking, but it can add a boost to your brand and credibility.  This is 2008, not 1988.  We are a flat world and technology and communications allow us to virtually reach out and touch anyone anywhere.  It only makes sense that we look at social networking in the same way.   I teach sessions on using social networking and I am always pleased to see how amazed some people are by the time they finish the session.  They get to see social networking from the inside out and get a better understanding of how to incorporate it into their branding and development plans.  I do have a slight advantage as a recruiter, but I don’t use social networking merely for the purposes of recruiting.  I build genuine relationships and I keep up with my connections.  That in and of itself has gotten me clients, speaking opportunities and publicity (all unsolicited).

One of the main questions I get asked is what site should a person join.  It is purely subjective.  You have to determine what your end goal is and the type of people you are trying to reach.  Go into each site with an agenda in mind.  If you don’t have a plan, you’ll just be wandering aimlessly.  The next popular questions I get asked are what should I put on my profile and how can I learn how to use *insert site name here*.  Again, it takes time and patience and a little bit of exploration.  Most people come to me because they want an overview from a real person who has experience with the site(s).  I also let them know that they need to be careful about completing their profile.  It shouldn’t read like a resume or CV.  It should give just enough information to give people an idea of your professional self.

Business owners also are slowly turning to social networking.  But for them the rules are slightly different. All of the basics for the career person apply, but they need to incorporate other aspects to get their brand out into the world.  Something as simple as adding video can give potential clients something tangible to work with.  You not only want to showcase your expertise, but SHOW them what you can and have done.  But don’t go overboard with it.  You should not go into social networking thinking it is the magic key to fill up your client load.  Relationship building should be your foundation, always.

Social networking used to be about instant messaging, participating on message boards and sending email.  But it has evolved into viral message, branding and networking through the use of video (You Tube), blogs, message forums, social networking sites, etc.  But remember, these are the TOOLS, a means to get your message out.  It is ultimately up to you to take it to the next level and connect and build relationships with the people you meet.  It takes work just like traditional networking.  It just allows you to move faster and reach more people.

If you have any questions about social networking or are looking for instruction, please feel free to reach out.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham