The Skills Of Professional Networking

Professional Networking is a widely used skill that many people lack. There are four main steps that a person must focus on while trying to build an effective professional network. The first step in building an effective professional network is to contact businesses in the best possible way. Next, it is extremely important to build an individual relationship with each business. Giving an effective presentation is the third step. The last and ongoing step is to maintain the current relationship while expanding the network to new contacts.

There are many benefits to professional networking. Having an outstanding professional network can lead to ultimate success. Better jobs and stronger support can come from this. There are many different ways that a person can build an effective profession network. This leads to the essential question.

Essential Question

How does a person build an effective professional network?

Supporting Questions

What is the best way to contact businesses?

What is the best way to build an individual relationship with each business?

What is the most effective way to give a presentation?

What is the best way to maintain the current relationships while expanding the network to new contacts?

What is the best way to contact businesses?

It is impossible to build a relationship without first having contact with any businesses. Beverly Newton, Nebraska FBLA State Adviser, Career Field Specialist, Communication and Information Systems, claimed, “The best way to contact a business is through a personal contact from someone you know who has recommended a specific name in the business to contact. It is also appropriate to write a letter to the name recommended to you and then indicate that you will follow-up the letter with a phone call” (personal e-mail, December 20, 2010). In retrospect, the first and most important step for someone who wants to contact businesses is to work towards building connections through networking. However, if a person was not knowledgeable enough to start early, there is still hope for them.

For someone who is just starting, they need to focus on friends and family. In making personal contacts, the person must start small with the businesses closest to him or her. This is extremely important because as Lao-tzu (2004) said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” (para. 1) Taking these small steps will lead to future success. Randall Hansen (2010) from Quintessential Careers states, “There is probably not an easier way to expand your network than to simply ask your current friends, family, and associations for the contact information of others whom they think would be beneficial for you to know. The ‘friend-of-a-friend’ connection is quite strong and usually very successful” (para. 4). Once these smaller contacts have been established, it is time to use them to enlarge the network. Every business will be related to many other businesses in some way. Be sure to use these previous connections to expand and make new connections. People’s previous contacts can be extremely important for future development.

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There are numerous ways to contact businesses. The most prolific way is to begin at an early age and build contacts throughout an entire lifetime. Since everyone knows someone else, the “friend-of-a-friend” connection is the best possible method to attain contacts. But, just because there are these contacts, does not necessarily mean that they will be willing to negotiate. It is extremely important to write a professional business letter to each business. This format consists of a heading, the date, the opening, the body, and then a conclusion. After the conclusion, a farewell and a signature with the name and title printed below should be included. In these letters, the writer needs to sound sincere and professional. The contactor should be sure to ask for support from the business, not a monetary donation. Following these steps will result in many business contacts.

What is the best way to build an individual relationship with each business?

Contacting is easy, but the truly skilled will develop a relationship with each business they contact. A contact is just “establishing of communication with someone or receiving of a significant signal from a person or object” (Guralnik, 1970, p. 306). However, a relationship is “a significant connection or similarity between two or more things” (Guralnik, 1970, p. 1198). Matthew Moran (2010) thinks, “One of the most pressing challenges with networking effectively is that many professionals never take the time to go where such relationships can happen” (para. 21). This is important because in order to make a sustainable professional network, there must be a relationship to keep the network alive. Newton stated, “It is important for the business to understand what purpose you have for them. The business usually wants ‘to do’ something other than donate money” (personal e-mail, December 20, 2010).

When attempting to build an individual relationship, it is essential to know the business’ purpose. A business representative will not be swayed to donate their support if the contactor does not even know how the business can be used. Having an organized and detailed plan is extremely important, as well as sounding professional, sincere, personable, and confident. Doing these things will create a strong one-on-one bond with each business.

What is the most effective way to give a presentation?

Once the door is opened with a relationship, it is time to slam the door shut and strike up a deal with a presentation. Giving an effective presentation can be extremely difficult. Darrell Zahorsky has eight secrets to a knockout business presentation. These eight steps are: dig deep, avoid info overload, practice delivery, forget comedy, pick powerful props, minimize you, speak the language, and use simple slides (Zahorsky, 2010).

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Mastering these secrets can be extremely difficult and may require practice. Great presenters give their presentations numerous times to a plethora of audiences for practice before they give their polished show. However, a good presentation in itself will not be effective without further details. The presenter needs to be dressed in proper attire to give a professional look. This consists of a business suit for both men and women. Presenters must be there early in order to ensure that their equipment is running properly and to introduce themselves to the company’s business leaders.

What is the best way to maintain the current relationships while expanding the network to new contacts?

After closing the deal with an amazing presentation, be sure to keep the door locked by maintaining the relationship and open new doorways by expanding to new contacts. “Follow-up with the business is important by connecting with the business at least twice during the year.” (B. Newton, personal e-mail, December 20, 2010). After making a connection, establishing a relationship, and giving an effective presentation, it is extremely important to maintain each and every relationship. Jennifer Vo (2010) declared, “Never burn a bridge because no matter how big the industry is, companies within an industry often keep in close contact with one another” (para. 5).

The next step is to expand the network to new contacts. This whole process acts as a cycle. Since a lot of work has already been done, it is advised to reuse the letters that were previously written. Sometimes things need to be tweaked a little bit for improvement. Be sure to update all of the documents so they are viable.

The final step of maintaining the current relationships, while expanding the network to new contacts, is extremely important. Since relationships take so much time and effort, no relationship can afford to be lost. Also, expansion is a necessity. A network without growth is the same as a dying network.

How does a person build an effective professional network?

There are many steps that must occur in order to build a professional network. These steps play out as a never-ending cycle. The first step is to contact the businesses. The “friend-of-a-friend” connection is the best possible method to attain contacts. Next, build an individual relationship with each business. Remember to have a purpose for each business. Also, there needs to be extra steps taken to reach this higher level. Giving an effective presentation is the third step. Be confident, dress appropriately, and practice, practice, practice. Lastly, it is a necessity to maintain the current relationships while expanding the network to new contacts. Every network needs to continue to grow by attaining new contacts; previous relationships also need to be maintained.

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All-in-all, communication is essential. Each of the four steps heavily incorporates communication as the most important piece. This communication is done through many forms, including verbal, written, and nonverbal. The contactor must be polished in every area in order to ensure his or her success. It is imperative to proofread each letter, practice each presentation, and send a professional message through physical appearance.

When building an effective professional network remember to follow these four main steps: contact the businesses, build an individual relationship, give an effective presentation, and maintain the current relationships while expanding the network to new contacts. Following these steps will create a strong professional network for the practicing individual. The network established will be a helpful tool that can be employed throughout an entire lifetime. A single individual can build an effective professional network by utilizing basic communication skills and establishing business relationships.

Annotated Bibliography

Hansen, R. S. Ph. D. (2010, November 4). How to build and expand your career network: 10 proven techniques. Retrieved from http://www.quintcareers.com/expanding_career_network.html.

This source was useful because it stated that using friends, family, and associations create strong connections. It also introduced the “friend-of-a-friend” connection that I referred back to several times throughout my paper. This source was very reliable and was extremely helpful.

Guralnik, D. B. (Ed.). (1970). Webster’s new world dictionary of the American language. (p. 306 & 1198, 2nd ed.). New York, NY: The World Publishing Company.

I used this to state the definitions of “contact” and “relationship.” This was important to my paper because I use both of these words numerous times. There is also a need to clarify the difference between the two.

Moran, M. (2006, July 21). Professional networking made easy: priming the pump. Retrieved from http://www.ciscopress.com/articles/printerfriendly.asp?p=486105.

This source explains the importance of building a relationship to keep a professional network alive. Without the information provided by this source my statements would not have any support.

Tzu, L. (2004, September 1). The quotations page: classic quotes. Retrieved from http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/24004.html.

I used this quote to back up my statement about making personal contacts with people who are close to them. I also said how everyone has to start off small, so this quote works hand-in-hand with what I said.

Vo, J. (2010, February 15). How to start networking: the best ways to expand a professional network. Retrieved from http://www.suite101.com/content/how-to-start-networking-a198785.

I used this resource to back myself up when I was talking about the importance of maintaining each and every relationship.

Zahorsky, D. (2010). 8 secrets to a knockout business presentation. Retrieved from http://sbinformation.about.com/od/sales/a/presentationtip.htm?p=1.

This resource defined the eight steps of giving an effective business presentation. This was extremely important because one of my supporting questions was completely about how to give an effective business presentation.

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