Tapping the Power of Networking

Spring is finally here – I know that because my kids have the week off and we ventured to the beach for five days.  While sitting in the sand, I reflected on my “networking high season” approaching – my annual peer conference, Darden reunions, Darden Days for admitted students, and of course networking with alumni to help our newest graduates secure job #1. Being an Extrovert (with a capital E, for sure!), I love this time of year… it’s a chance to meet new people, get reacquainted with old friends and, my favorite, to play matchmaker. I just love the opportunity to collaborate and share ideas through mutual relationships.

The power of networking is often misunderstood.  So many people think that networking is something you do only when you “need” something, like a job.  If you step back and think about the true power of networking, perhaps you’ll be enticed to engage more readily.  Afterall, networking has been around forever, it is timeless.

Thomas Jefferson’s success was dependent on the many relationships he forged throughout his career to further his values and ideals in the growth and establishment of a strong United States. (I knew I would find a way to finally bring TJ into this blog eventually!)  Exploration of the west would not have succeeded without leveraging his long time Albemarle County friend, Meriwether Lewis.  The Louisiana Purchase would not have happened without the information and knowledge he gained through his myriad of acquaintances both in France and at home.

Whether growing a country in the 1800’s or building one’s career in the 2000’s, goals are accomplished most efficiently and deals are negotiated most effectively utilizing personal connections developed over time.  Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Take time to meet and get to know people – attend alumni and trade events to broaden your network
  • Keep in touch with colleagues, clients, vendors, don’t wait until you NEED something to connect
  • Be helpful – look for ways to help others – share information and make introductions regularly
  • Build trust and integrity with the people with whom you are in contact
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to your nurtured network when you are working on something – people like to be of assistance
  • When you are calling with an agenda, make it easy for others to help you – do your homework, know what you want to talk about, present something to which they can react
  • Try to meet in person, relationships are easiest to build when contact is made live, in the flesh.
  • Make networking part of your routine – set time aside each week to connect with someone outside your typical work circle.
  • Utilize LinkedIn to stay connected with your valued connections.  Keep your information current on LinkedIn as well as alumni directories including the Darden Community

So often alumni regretfully remark how they have not kept up their network after graduation.  It’s never too late to stop the neglect.  Make this spring a time of re-connecting and change your rituals to include establishing and maintaining a broad range of relationships and sharing ideas. With collaboration, everyone ends up a winner.  In the words of our beloved founder, Thomas Jefferson:  ”He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper [candle] at mine, receives light without darkening me.”

[Check out more networking resources on the ACS website.]

Connie Dato English (Darden MBA 91), Director of the Armstrong Center for Alumni Career Services , University of Virginia Darden School of Business

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