by Douglas E. Welch
May 12, 2000
© 2000, Douglas E. Welch
Open any book on careers today and you will find the term "networking"
used with abandon. While high-tech workers are familiar with the technology side
of networking, networking among themselves and their friends can
seem terribly foreign. Unfortunately, while networking has taken
on a somewhat smarmy connotation over the years, creating and
maintaining connections among your friends and co-workers can
be very important in creating and building your career.
What it isn't
The most important thing to remember is that networking is not
introducing yourself to everyone in a room. It isn't forcing yourself
to give a business card to everyone at a party. It isn't about
being false, fake or someone you are not. Networking is all about
staying in contact with people who can make a difference in your
life or, maybe, already have.
Too often we let friendships and professional relationships falter
when we get distracted with our own problems. Unfortunately, this
is exactly the time when we need these people the most. To me,
networking is more about keeping in touch than keeping a Rolodex?.
Who do you know?
Just as the nature of business has changed over the last 10 years
so has the nature of networking. Today we meet thousands of people
in the course of our career. Our parents may have worked with
the same basic group of people for 30 years. For executives of
their time, networking was the only way to meet people outside
of your company or neighborhood. When you add in the reach of
electronic mail, personal information managers and Palm Pilots,
it would seem that we have much more opportunity for networking
than ever before. The unfortunate truth, though, is that we squander
our attention and allow important people to drift off down the
river of our lives without a backward glance.
We have all had the experience of leaving school or leaving a
job. Often, relationships we have fostered and enjoyed for years
suddenly disappear. I know this to be true because I have allowed
it to happen myself many times. You want to remain friends, but
without proximity it requires effort to maintain contact. Too
often, this effort is spent on our new job with little left for
Making an effort
As with every other aspect of your career, the amount of effort
you expend is usually paid back in increased salary, promotions
and responsibility. The same can be said for maintaining relationships.
The old adage, you have to be a friend to have a friend has never
This effort can take many forms. As we continue to move into a
more project-oriented economy it is important to let your peers
know both when you are available and the type of work you are
seeking. A simple email each month or so helps to keep your name
in people's mind when they are looking for new members for their
project teams. I send out a quick summary of my current work each
month or so. This includes excerpts from recently published articles,
announcements of classes and seminars and a little bit of personal
information, such as, when I am out on vacation. These emails
have pointers to further information on my web site.
The effect of these emails has always amazed me. Many times I
have had editors call saying "I had meant to call you about doing
a story on
" Other clients call about scheduling a training session.
Still others just call to chat and let me know what they are currently
working on. This is one way of keeping your name in front of the
people who can use your talents and simply need a gentle reminder
that you are available
Whether you use email, the web, the phone or do lunch with your
friends and peers, keeping in contact can help your career in
dramatic ways. Networking today doesn't mean you have to aggressively
pursue strangers. It doesn't mean following the precepts of any
particular book or program. It only means staying in contact with
those people who pass through your life that you find interesting,
helpful or just plain fun. You can never tell where, or from whom,
you next project might arise.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant
in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with
other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on
Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/
He can reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org