Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Oakland University “Student to Professional Conference.” This conference brought together various business experts that offered real world advice to soon-to-be college graduates.
In my presentation, I discussed the confluence of networking events, business applications, and social media technology that has created a powerful business environment that offers both great opportunities and great challenges. Networking has become a critical tool for many people to get back into the job market, as well as for those just entering into their first professional position.
But what is networking, really? In my mind, true networking is a combination of formal business etiquette and personal, informal communication brought together to build lasting relationships.
Lately, the waters have been muddied by new technologies that make it easy to reach out to both personal and professional contacts. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc… give us vehicles to extend our networks far beyond what we were once able to do. The waters cloud even further when we realize that our corporate infrastructures are still in the process of restructuring and rebuilding. Those business contacts we leveraged for so long are gone; people have moved on, and job functions have changed. Now, we have to make new connections in new ways just to remain current and employable.
This confusing environment lends itself to a little self-reflection. With so much in front of us, we should be asking, “What am I trying to accomplish? Do I need a job? More money, more friends, better business opportunities?”
As we ask these questions, we need to think about how the Human or H-Factor plays a role in answering all of these inquiries. The H-Factor is the human connection we need to make with others both personally and professionally in order to network successfully. These connections are based upon:
Real networking requires that we respect each other, show an interest in what others do, trust the other person (at least a little bit, to start), and be willing to take action when a connection is made.
Networking is all about building lasting relationships — personal and professional. Good relationships begin when we treat each other like human beings, not like objects that are just a means to our own ends.
Now that’s something to think about…