How Networking Really Works

Debunking the myths that prevent professionals from moving ahead

As a first line manager at Prudential in Atlanta, Gregory Morrison made sure he never missed the chairman’s annual state of the company address. It was by invitation only for company officers at a location 10 miles from Morrison’s work site, though it was also telecast. Morrison was never invited. But he knew no one was verifying RSVPs. And because of the distance, senior managers at his location would opt to watch it on television. So Morrison would just show up—even coming in from vacation one year—and use the occasion to introduce himself to top-level executives. “I usually had a particular individual that I wanted to meet there and I would find a way to meet him if it meant just walking up, introducing myself, and starting a conversation or cornering them someplace where they couldn’t run.”

There were 100,000 employees at Prudential. Morrison understood the importance of making a personal connection to develop the right relationships.

When Morrison left Prudential in 2000, after 11 years, he had risen to the post of vice president. I got promoted on a very, very rapid schedule,” explains Morrison, 45, who today is chief information officer of Cox Enterprises Inc. “Some of it was merit-based but, quite honestly, I know some of it was because of the relationships. I got the opportunities because I’d already established the relationships.”

Networking has become the nomenclature for the art of developing powerful relationships that move careers forward. Every professional is aware of its importance. After all, 85% of all jobs are secured through networking. But as familiar as it is to everyone in the workforce, it is an underused career enhancement method, due to misconceptions about how to network strategically. Here we talk to experts and professionals who debunk the myths.

Myth #1: It’s all about you.
The most successful professionals view networking as a two-way street. A networking alliance should benefit each party, experts say. In fact, many say it’s better to err on the side of giving more than receiving. “You can’t build your network and always expect to get something,” says Marlon Cousin, managing partner of the Marquin Group, an Atlanta-based executive search firm. “To get something, you give something.”

Morrison concurs: “The best approach from a networking perspective is to ask, ‘What can I do to help you?’” he says. Morrison notes that everyone has something to give, whether it’s time, talent, or performance. But perhaps the most valuable networking currency is information. Morrison didn’t always focus on networking for a job or promotion; often it was for information that could be helpful.

Myth #2: It’s about a party.
Most are familiar with networking “mixers” or, as some recruiters call them, “card parties.” In the midst of drinking and socializing, strategic networking oftentimes gets lost. Though some experts recommend avoiding mixers, others note that networking can be done anywhere. At these events, it’s important to make a connection instead of just socializing.

Indeed, some parties are fertile ground for networking. Attending internal corporate functions can help you raise your corporate

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