Networking is a good thing, right? It is a great way for professional women like you to meet people, build relationships, find opportunities, expand your skill sets and establish a reputation. So is there really too much of a good thing? When it comes to networking, the answer is definitely yes.
If you stop and think about it, you can probably identify at least a couple of people in your business community or industry that are over-networked. These individuals tend to belong to many organizations, attend tons of events, serve in multiple leadership roles, and participate in speaker and awards programs each and every year - and do anything else that gains them visibility. While each of these networking activities in a reasonable amount is positive, doing too many can lead to a case of quantity over quality.
Anyone can be visible – if you are in enough places often enough, people will begin to recognize you, and your name will become known. Being credible, however, is a higher level of recognition, where your expertise, integrity and influence develop into a positive reputation. Professional women need to be especially cognizant about whether their networking habits help or hurt them.
So how can you create the right kind of visibility while developing credibility?
Participate only in relevant organizations and events. Focus your participation on things that make sense for your business, rather than trying to be in as many places as possible.
Network with your true peers. If you are an executive or business owner, get involved where other executives network. Don’t sell yourself short and network in groups and events comprised of professionals at lower levels, simply due to habit or nerves.
Focus on leadership roles rather than membership. You will get much more out of an organization if you volunteer for a committee or board, rather than simply participating as a member. It is better to single yourself out as a leader of one organization than to merely be a member of several.
Follow through with your commitments. If you take on any kind of a volunteer role, be sure to deliver what you promised. The quickest way to develop a negative reputation is to fail to follow through. Only commit to those activities you know you have the time and ability to accomplish.
Develop relationships, not contacts. Simply meeting many people through networking is not effective. If a large number of people have heard of you and perhaps even met you once or twice, this constitutes visibility. If a smaller number of people personally know you, can speak to your unique capabilities, and will serve as advocates for you, this constitutes credibility. Focus on developing relationships and trust with key individuals.
It is relatively easy to become well known and well liked, but that alone will probably not get you the results you hope for. Strategic networking can be a powerful tool to help you develop both visibility and credibility, which is of real value.
The author can be reached at www.marnylifshen.com.
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is an independent marketing communications and PR consultant, as well as a speaker and author. She provides comprehensive strategy, management, implementation and evaluation of marketing communications and public relations initiatives to wide variety of clients. Marny is the author of Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Women, the business category winner for the 2009 Eric Hoffer Awards for Independent Books, released by New Year Publishing in August of 2008. An experienced speaker, she has been speaking specifically to women's organizations for more than ten years, including Women in Technology International, Women in Communications and the Young Women's Alliance. Marny can be reached at www.marnylifshen.com.