Plugging In

Networking skills that promise success

Every job I’ve ever been hired for I’ve gotten because an associate told me about an opening or someone referred me. I’ve always gotten my jobs through somebody I know,” says Melvin Murphy, author of the forthcoming book It’s Who You Know! Creating Mentor-Based Alliances, Coalitions and Partnerships through Networking (New Visions; $26.95). “Knowing the right people will help you become the power elite,” he offers. In other words, effective networking in which relationships are developed with people in strategic positions can yield productive results.

“We do know that statistically 85%–90% of people looking for employment get new jobs through networking contacts. We also know that word-of-mouth through networks and key connectors is the way people grow their businesses,” Melissa Giovagnoli points out. She is the co-author of Networlding: Building Relationships and Opportunities for Success (Jossey-Bass; $25). Networlding is a networking model that Giovagnoli developed more than a decade ago, after finding the traditional method of networking superficial and futile. She called it a “haphazard process of making contacts to achieve short-term and often one-sided goals.” Instead, she instructs others on how they can intentionally build mutually beneficial relationships. With this model of building contacts, you’re not always calling someone for help. There is a balance of asking for and giving help. In fact, the experts agree that the whole point of networking is to develop meaningful, win-win relationships before you even think about asking for job referrals.

“People used to look at networking as ‘what’s in it for me and what can I get out of [this] situation?’” explains Joe Watson, CEO and owner of StrategicHire, an executive search firm in Reston, Virginia. “The smartest people understand that networking is really about doing for other people and that in doing for other people, conversely they will want to help you.” Assistance may come in the form of shared information, resources, ideas, talent, or collaboration.

For Glynda Mayo Hall, it has meant 11 years of brokering partnerships between local businesses, faith and civic organizations, schools, and human services programs. With more than 1,000 names in her Outlook database, Mayo Hall, the resource development manager for the Fairfax County Office of Partnerships, is a consummate networker in her professional and personal life. The alliances that she has brought together in her job have recently led to medical care for children who may have otherwise been ignored. She has also received computers and 14 computer training facilities for families without the means. Mayo Hall also attributes success in her own career to these skills. “Networking moved me through a lot of different circles,” she says.

While our experts agree that building alliances and partnerships is a very necessary part of anyone’s career–whether a recent college graduate, business owner, or CEO–many people admit that they are not very good at it. There is definitely an art to networking.

“It goes way beyond passing on your résumé. You need to build partnerships before you need them. There’s no way you can get to where you’re trying to go

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