AIM's Top Ten Networking Tips

The vital business skill of networking has been around for a long time. Networking continues to evolve, particularly in an era of social media and a stream of complex information.

It is against this backdrop that AIM has developed its Top Ten Tips for Networking.

1 Social media provides an abundance of networking opportunities. The current trend is LinkedIn for business, Facebook for personal messages and Twitter for those who have 140 characters of useful information. The more important trend is a balance of social media and face to face networking. Efficient networkers have a balanced portfolio - they are discerningly present online and discerning present face to face.
2 Networking is about connections and reconnections. A recent article in the MIT Sloan Management Review by Daniel Z. Levin, Jorge Walter and J. Keith Murningham has found dormant ties are as valuable (and often more valuable) than current ties. They report insights from dormant ties tend to be more novel and efficient than those from current ties. They also found that the pool of helpful dormant ties is surprisingly deep.
3 Networking is as important inside your organisation as it is outside your organisation. Most people think of networking as attending external functions. This may increase your circle of acquaintances, broaden your thinking and understanding of sectors other than your own. William C. Byham noted in T+D Magazine that in the past, individuals had all the knowledge and information necessary to perform well. However, the amount of information now necessary to be successful outpaces the knowledge one individual can possess. To be a deep expert in anything will increasingly require superior internal networking skills as well.
4 William C. Byham also put forward that networkers need to be courageous and purposeful. There is always a certain delight in serendipitous networking. The reality is that networking requires a plan and a positive attitude or discipline. While most people understand the courage part of the equation, many stumble at the thought of planning their networking with a clear goal in mind.
5 Many managers can't embrace networking as a concept. They perceive it as manipulative and lacking in authenticity. But being effective today and beyond will require you to draw on the skills of others and to learn from and with them. So ignoring networking simply isn't an option. Shift your thoughts to seeing networking as an authentic professional development activity - one that allows you to learn and grow and allows others to learn about you.
6 We live in a celebrity-obsessed world where there is immense pressure to be interesting - for some at any cost. But the key to networking is not just to be interesting - it is to be interested. Most mangers will tell you their world is moving at warp speed. So having someone take the time to be genuinely interested in them is refreshing and memorable.
7 Mark Twain is quoted as saying "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated". The same could be said of the business card. With so much communication in electronic form, a business card remains a vital tool to be handed out with discretion and care. Not everyone gets to design their own business card, but everyone gets to decide how they will hand them out and how they will receive the business cards of others.
8 There is an app for just about everything now. Is there an app for you? Think about how you can create a free app for who you are, the service you provide or the resources you have created. The discipline of creating an app will stand you in good stead for succinctly stating what you do and sharing your value proposition.
9 Contribution trumps calculation. The most effective networkers invest time in themselves and time in others. They freely contribute to the community in a way that makes sense for them. There is no better way to meet people and learn than working in the service of others, and it feels good! Community contribution refreshes the soul and creates connections from a good place.
10 Quality, not quantity. The key to networking amid all the noise is quality reciprocal relationships that ebb and flow in a comfortable way. Have you created a large electronic mailing list or have you created genuine relationships? Perhaps you want to do both, but don't confuse the two. A genuine relationship is one where another person knows you and you know them. If you have to develop a relationship to address an issue or move something forward, then it's probably too late.