Networking: What Can It Do For You?

Whenever I tell people from outside of Atlanta that I was born and raised here, they usually have some comment on either how big the city is or how bad the traffic is. My response is usually, “No, it’s really not, and my commute to work is less than a mile.”

I am often times surprised by how small Atlanta actually is; just yesterday I ran into a man I went to first grade with, whom I haven’t seen in years! It seems as if I cross paths with someone that I know, or at least have a mutual friend in common, everywhere I go. I find this to be especially evident in the work environment due to constant networking to build my web of connections.

Networking can:

  1. Build your business contacts
  2. Promote your organization
  3. Find new supporters/donors
  4. Make connections in the nonprofit sector

Whether taking a business breakfast with a fellow development colleague to discuss trends in nonprofits or attending conferences, networking is free personal advertising. Yes, the speakers at conferences are truly spectacular, but meeting peers can be one of the most beneficial reasons for attending.

I encourage you to round up a few people that you do not know, to get drinks after a conference or seminar to discuss.  Be sure to get the contact information for the individuals you meet so you can reach out to them and add them on LinkedIn. Always remember to follow up if you say you will!

Networking isn’t always about finding a job; although, most people wait until there is a crisis to start the process without realizing how long it can take. The most valuable networking opportunities arise when it is mutually beneficial. There is a careful balance of give and take that needs to be recognized, because no one likes to feel like they are being mooched off of. One simple way of avoiding this dynamic is to ask for advice – people like to believe that they are experts in their field and love to give advice.

Some tips for networking:

  1. Maintain eye contact, smile, and uncross your arms
  2. Always have business cards on hand
  3. Listen actively
  4. Be confident
  5. Make an effort to socialize with new people
  6. Seek advice
  7. Ask open-ended questions
  8. Follow up and stay in touch

Get out there and start networking!