Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Importance of Building Your Network

Sometimes, the answers to life’s challenges are right in front of our eyes. We just need to focus our attention to see them.

Take the example of social media. It’s a phenomenon that is here to stay, and it’s fast becoming the most influential way that we communicate in modern society.

I’m not here to debate whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I’m here to focus your attention on the term social. Because that’s why the whole phenomenon has taken off.

Social media has rocked our world, plain and simple. Facebook started as a way for college students to network online on their campus. In less than a decade, it has become one of the most influential tools in the history of mankind. People use it. Businesses use it. Non-profits use it. Governments use it. These days, it’s hard to imagine the world without it. Why? Because it connects us.

There was even a movie made about the Facebook phenomenon called “The Social Network.” And that’s the whole point. It’s a network. And networks are the pathways to getting things done.

If networking online is so popular, imagine the results you can get from networking with others in person, whether it’s one-on-one or in a group setting.

Something as simple as attending a social gathering with colleagues from the office can go a long way toward building relationships. In addition, there are a number of ways that you can network in the community to cultivate lasting and positive relationships.

Professional organizations are an obvious way to connect with people in your field. So are civic organizations like Rotary, Kiwanis, and other service-oriented groups. Your local chamber of commerce most likely schedules annual and monthly events such as banquets and social mixers, which are great forums for developing friendships and business connections. I have one friend who decided that he needed to improve his presentation skills, so he joined the local Toastmasters Club. Not only has he improved as a communicator, but the relationships he’s built have led to new business for his company.

Volunteering is a great way to connect with others. Few things build positive relationships more than working shoulder to shoulder with colleagues to help a worthy cause. Opportunities range from serving on a hands-on project such as building homes or delivering meals to shut-ins, to joining a non-profit board or a committee at your kids’ school or your church, to coaching youth sports in your community.

Regardless of how you do it, getting out into the community and interacting with others will build relationships. When you combine that with the many opportunities for networking online—Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+, to name a few—you have before you a wide range of choices for connecting with others in a personal way. Over time, the relationships that form your network can present you with opportunities for personal and professional advancement.

Networking—social or otherwise—is a powerful tool. Look for opportunities to build your own network. It can be a key to personal satisfaction and professional success.

Jim Ondrus pioneered the management concept of Leadership Transitioning. He is president of JA Ondrus, LLC, a Canton, Ohio executive coaching firm.