What Does Networking Mean To You?

In June 2011, J. Maureen Henderson wrote a post for Forbes on what networking isn’t… and what it could be. I cheered as I read her post, because she got it. She got that networking wasn’t about desperation-fueled schmoozing. (Well. It shouldn’t be.) It wasn’t about working a room or handing out business cards willy-nilly. It was about conversation. It was about connection. It was about all the ways we connect with others on a daily basis, in a thousand different ways.

“Blogging is networking,” she wrote. “Being on Twitter is networking. Sending your BFF a job posting that you think would be perfect for her roommate is networking. Asking Jim in Marketing if he knows someone who is aces at web design is networking. When your new hair stylist asks what you do for a living and you answer her? That’s networking.”

The year before, J.M. did a video interview with me about my career coaching business. That was networking, too. One of J.M.’s blog readers saw that video and became my very first e-course student.

What else is networking?

  • Maintaining a presence on LinkedIn.
  • Interviewing someone for a magazine article.
  • Schmoozing at the latest blogging meetup.
  • Being friendly with those outside partners and publicists you collaborate with while at your day job.
  • Sharing contacts with other writers.
  • Making the most of your internship.
  • Taking continuing education classes.
  • Creating a writing group once the semester ends.
  • Letting your husband talk you up to his colleagues.
  • Proving your worth as a freelance writer.
  • Telling your friends you’re looking.
  • Chatting up your classmates at your weekly callanetics class.
  • Yukking it up at the latest media party at that bar downtown.
  • Keeping in touch with the young woman who taught Sword Swallowing 101 at your very first sex party.
  • Spinning a crappy job offer into a more beneficial freelance relationship.
  • Milking that mentor for all she’s worth.
  • Approaching people for informational interviews, and accepting lunch invitations from editors at all levels.

All of the items on this list have led directly to paying work: Permalance gigs. Regular clients. Columns and regular blogging gigs. The ability to finally break into those publications I’d been eyeing. My first few full-time jobs. Freelance projects.

In fact, in some cases, the ones that — in my mind — were the furthest from networking were the ones that ended up being the most lucrative, or leading to the most interesting work.

So what does networking mean to you?

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