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Networking and building relationships

Networking is the process of communicating with and establishing relationships with others for the purpose of expanding your knowledge, learning from others’ successes, attaining new customers, telling others about yourself and your business, etc.

Networking is prevalent in business and social situations that offer many benefits for all parties involved. It is a voluntary process although some large companies offer a more formal, organized networking environment.

Mentoring relationships, up and down, have proved very helpful to both the mentor and mentee.

New employees, trainees, interns, newly placed employees in different positions, etc. can all benefit from mentoring, networking and relationship building. These are not one-time exchanges but ongoing relationships.

Many last for years even after one moves on to other jobs, relocates to other geographic locations and changes careers. There are many incentives for all parties to building long lasting relationships. The main requirement for success is trustworthiness.

People in general are social animals and desire to find people of similar interests, be it sports, families, work, social interests, other passions.  They can include co-workers at all levels and peers from other businesses with positions ranging from CEO’s and executives to people at varying levels in business including marketing, human resources, financial representatives, technology, operations, sales, etc.

Business, society, individuals reap the benefits of success. The economy is more robust when entrepreneurism flourishes.

Companies who provide opportunities for leaders to be developed, grow in their roles, make connections will be able to grow more internal leadership.

Time should be allowed for making connections. It can become second nature, even for introverts, to become involved and connected. Person-to-person connections can be made through networking events, social occasions, through social media and at business meetings, just to name a few.

It is beneficial for people who are happily employed and for those who may be looking for new opportunities both inside and outside current employment. Staying updated on your LinkedIn page and updating your profile on other sites should not be forgotten.

Some of your best contacts can be made outside work at social occasions, attending meetings in your community, taking courses for improving your skills, volunteering at non-profit organizations, church activities, etc. Utilize these opportunities to build and grow your network.

Working with team members on projects allows for a better understanding of others with whom you work and putting faces behind what could have only been email addresses. Don’t overlook any opportunity.

Communication skills are valuable and being open to meeting new people is always best practice.  Treat people with respect and be genuine.

Plan ice-breakers ahead of time to bring shy people you meet out. Introduce yourself to all you meet. Ask for introductions to others. Practice active listening. It will make more friends than talking about yourself.

Attending conferences or seminars while representing your company is one of the best ways to establish relationships with peers and often it turns into lifelong relationships.

Through the years in my career I have met so many people from other areas of the country who worked in similar jobs for their company that I had so much in common with.

They were valuable resources for years on many topics I faced in my position. The advantages are that they are out of your market, not competitors, and based on their varying experiences can shed light on many topics you face.

Sharing information became easy as we got to know each other better and the trust level was established. It is a two-way street, receiving and giving of information.

This can often replace information and guidance that otherwise must be obtained through paid consultants. It doesn’t replace the need for the use of consulting firms in certain situations but is under rated by some companies who do not allow their employees to attend and participate in conferences.

This kind of involvement will not only increase knowledge but also build relationships that are very valuable and often irreplaceable.

Learning from meetings with presentations from others and experts in the same business offers critical information and knowledge updating. In addition the individual contacts made become resources that are advantageous to the individual and the company.

Networking, mentoring, building relationships are all advantageous to businesses and employees alike. Employees will be happier in their positions and more productive. Leaders should ensure that opportunities are made available for employees.

As a result the business and its employees will reap many benefits from the connections made. It is a win-win proposition worthy of investing in at all levels in your organization.

Becky Vaughn-Furlow retired from Trustmark Bank as executive vice president and human resources director. She can be contacted by emailing bvaughnfurlow@gmail.com.