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Crafting your Net for Networking

Networking is a 24-hour process. It is a lifestyle that enhances business and personal relationships—a support system that will help you when you need a new job, advise on climbing the corporate ladder, a safety net when you dare to "go it alone," a resource when you need a doctor, personal trainer or child care provider.

Every person you meet has the potential of adding value to your network. So—put yourself where the people are: community center, business organizations, religious and community volunteer organizations, adult education and college classes, health clubs, bookstores, special interest groups. Join groups you enjoy. Get involved. Participate on a committee. Attend all the monthly meetings. Take a series of classes. The key is to be involved with a group on an ongoing basis so that you can get to know people.

Once you target a group attend the next scheduled meeting. Be pro-active and engage people in friendly small talk. Approach people who are by themselves rather than trying to inch your way into a group.

Introduce yourself and start with pleasant open-ended conversation: "What made you decide to come tonight?" "What do you know about the speaker?" "Are you a member or a guest tonight?" Draw the person out and build it into a conversation. Presto! You’re crafting your net!

Get organized and create a "network file". Keep notes on each person’s phone number, address, and areas of interest and professional expertise.

Networking nets need constant care. Nurture the relationship by keeping in touch. Send a note or article of interest; pick up the phone and call. Be sure to connect with that person at the next meeting, class or event. Be available when they need help so that they will be available for you when you need help.

Remember that networking is a continual process. You need to be willing to be pro-active and push yourself to meet new people and engage them in conversation. Networking is a challenge that enhances your life.

Linda Scharf, CPC, is President of Judlind Employment Services, Inc., in Stamford. Judlind specializes in permanent, temporary and temp-to-hire staffing for office support administration, accounting and finance.

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