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The Professional's Archive
Networking 101
01.06.03

On the Merits of Conventions
08.12.02

Getting Free Career Development - by Giving
06.28.02

The Professional
A Column on Career and the Asian Professional by Jhemon Lee

Networking 101
1.6.2002

You’ve heard it before, but networking really is very important to success. The value of a network can be seen from a professional standpoint—potential customers, strategic partners and free marketing and publicity. But don’t forget the more human side of networking -- camaraderie, peers to share lively discussions and ideas with and people that can give you advice and a shoulder to cry on.

Building Your Network

Your network is the group of people that you know. And by “know,” I mean someone that has a tangible connection to you. Just because you shook hands with the Pope doesn’t mean that he’s in your network. On the other hand, if you and the Pope are on a first name basis, that counts.

We all start with our own personal network of family, friends, co-workers and classmates. Since we all already have a network to begin with, the idea behind networking is to make an active effort in expanding that network. There are many ways to do this. The most common way is to spend more time with the people that you already know, and to get to know some of their friends and family. Another way is to get out of the house and participate in activities and organizations in the community—professional, religious, social, athletic, etc. In the age of the Internet, you can even network from the comfort of your own home, through e-mail, websites, chat rooms and online activities. Who knows, maybe the person you’re shooting down in that Quake 3 deathmatch video game will be your next customer. OK, maybe not.

Quality, Not Just Quantity

There’s a lot more to networking than mere expansion. There’s also the importance of building quality links, and focusing on the links that are important to you. Indiscriminate networking will simply bog you down, and may result in a lot of leads that are uncomfortable or even damaging. For example, a connection that ends up becoming a stalker is clearly not a good networking connection.

First of all, you need to decide why you want to network, and what you hope to accomplish. Are you looking for customers?  Job leads?  Friends?  Something else?  Focus your efforts in those directions. Sure, random connections may lead to unexpected successes, but it’s like drilling for oil. You may luck out by drilling anywhere and everywhere, but your odds will be better if you drill where the geologist tells you the oil deposits are.

For example, let’s say that you’re an import-export business that trades with Jamaica. You can ask your friends and colleagues if they have any acquaintances in Jamaica or in import-export. You can beef up your general corporate contacts by participating in local business and chamber of commerce organizations. And by participating in community organizations serving the needs of Jamaican nationals and Jamaican Americans, you may turn up some other connections to this island nation.

You also need to strengthen the quality of the connections that are important to you. No one likes to feel like they’re only being “used.”  Simply having a name and address in your Rolodex doesn’t mean that that person will instantly want to help you in the future. Networking is more than just collecting business cards like baseball cards.

Tips for Networking

  1. Have a positive attitude about networking. A friend of mine hated cocktail parties, and always complained that she never got anything out of them. If you walk in assuming you’re going to hate it from the get go, it’s no surprise that the evening will be a bust. But if you’re in a pleasant mindset instead, you’re more likely to be received as a pleasant person by all those around you.
  2. When you meet new contacts, try to get to know them. What do they do, and what is important to them?  While some people like to talk about themselves, remember that others don’t, and a constant stream of questions may be annoying or intrusive to some. Back and forth—some questions, some answers—is the best way to go if you can manage it.
  3. After you meet someone, make sure to follow up if you want to keep the connection. You can’t just call up someone out of the blue that you met three years ago and expect them to remember you. At least zip off a quick followup e-mail. And the more traditional method of keeping in touch in through followup telephone calls and thank you letters have become so much more meaningful in today’s digital era.
  4. Keep in touch regularly. This isn’t too hard if you only have a few contacts, but it’s a lot harder if you know a lot of folks. But We’ll talk more about in the next column.
  5. Networking is a two way street. If you help someone, they’re more likely to be willing to help you in the future. If all you do is take advantage of your contacts, they’ll rightly get tired of it and cut you off.
  6. Anti-stalker warning: Don’t be a pest. If someone doesn’t want to be a part of your network, repeated inquiries won’t make them want to join. They’ll just sic the police on you, and you may develop a bad reputation in their social circles. Spend your precious time more profitably elsewhere.

Next Time: Secrets of High Volume Networking

AsianConnections Team columnist Dr. Jhemon Lee is a past Chairman of the National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP), and remains an active officer. Dr. Lee is actively involved in many community organizations and is a practising radiologist in Southern California. He received his undergraduate degree at Harvard and his medical degree from the University of Maryland. To contact Jhemon, please send email to jhemon.lee@asianconnections.com


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