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The Romantic Side of Networking

Networking is one of the most important things you'll ever do for your career. Even when you love what you do, you should continue to widen your professional pool of contacts, including friends, colleagues, bosses, family.

A new book by Shawn Graham, "Courting Your Career," makes a strong case for networking. The book points out that networking was the leading job-search method reported by 78 percent of job-seekers in a poll by the Society for Human Resource Management.

Graham centers the book on an analogy between finding a job and finding a significant other, and is engaging and witty as he delivers a host of useful networking tips.

Nuances of Networking

Graham, who serves as associate director with the MBA Career Management Center at the University of North Carolina's Kenan-Flagler Business School, offers "Principles of Effective Networking," saying at the outset that networking is a two-way street. His three principles are:

  • Assess: Who is your network? Look to friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances.
  • Expand: Continue growing your web of contacts.
  • Maintain: Networking takes work, and you have to keep up with relationships. It shouldn't stop once you get a desired gig.

Graham notes, "Finding a job or internship is a lot like finding a boyfriend or girlfriend. Your success often depends on how much someone likes you, not necessarily on how smart or cute you are."

Being assertive but not pushy is critical, he says, and goes on to suggest using professional associations and Web sites such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn, among others.

Skills, ability and experience account for a lot when it comes to your career. But people do, too. That's especially true in this era of globalization, and as workers change jobs more regularly. Successfully shifting gigs or careers very often depends on who you know.

As Graham points out, networking, like all relationships, takes work, and you have to help others. When you do, you might just forge lasting relationships that benefit everyone.

Do's and Don'ts

Graham's chapter on networking also includes a handy list of "Networking Do's and Don'ts." Proofreading all e-mails is critical, he says, and I agree--double- and even triple-checking can catch typos and save grammatical face.

He also advises sending thank-you notes to contacts whether or not they were helpful, staying in touch with contacts even after you've found a job, and using a professional e-mail address:

In other words, wonderstud@aol.com or sugarbear@yahoo.com (believe it or not, I've actually seen an e-mail address similar to this on a resume) aren't options unless you want to be a carpenter or a platinum recording artist.

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