“If you’re like a lot of people“, writes Stephanie Ward, “the thought of networking is about as appealing as a trip to the dentist.” There’s a variety of reasons for that. Some of us simply don’t like networking: “My husband just isn’t about networking. He’s got loads of friends and colleagues from Australia to Washington, he likes asking for tips, enjoys good wine in fine company – but he keeps claiming that he doesn’t like networking”, reports Kassandra Hofstetter in her contribution on Network Brokers, “but it’s more a question of definitions: we tend to believe that our network only consists of those people we label as our network partners.”
In fact, everyone’s network – our ego-network – is much broader than we think. In ‘Define Networking’, Selma Prodanovic writes: “That ego-network consists of personal and business contacts, family members, friends, business partners, acquaintances and others. It may provide and create assets such as information, ideas, business opportunities, innovation, clients, emotional support, friendship, financial capital or power.” The mom you met and exchanged numbers with at your kids’ playground belongs to that network as much as your favorite colleague or your schoolmate who now lives in Australia. With tools such as Facebook and Twitter, our networks tend to grow exponentially and sometimes even uncontrollably.
So what is, ultimately, networking? At its simplest, networking is network management: making the best out of the ties and connections that define you. However, “networking is also about embedding and using resources – in other words, giving and taking – from and in networks, crossing gaps and solving problems in creative ways”, writes Selma Prodanovic.
Networking is an investment, into deepening your skills, learning to expand them and profit from your network. And speaking of investments – why not invest today into your own copy of the Brainsbook on Networking?