After reading A Simple Form of Networking Even the Most Introverted Professional Can Enjoy, I started thinking about how networking really applies to my life as a work-at-home, homeschooling mom. I am introverted and often work with technology professionals who are also introverted, which is what first drew me to the article. But what strikes me is that most people think of networking in terms of social gatherings, groups of people, and meeting people they don’t know.
Maybe I’m wrong. But this is the mental image that networking immediately brings up for me. While I like people, that type of situation is a big energy drain for me and not usually the best use of my time. And, as a at-home mom, with multiple responsibilities, social functions just aren’t very plausible. I’m not apt to go out and “network” with professionals in my field very often.
But that’s the key there… “go out”. I do network. But I only go out and do it on a strategic, limited basis. As this article pointed out networking is really about building relationships. This I do for sanity – both as a homeschooling mom and as a working professional. My “going out and networking” is about getting together peridocially for lunch, or coffee, or maybe a periodic face-to-face meeting. If I’m at a conference, I may meet new people there and follow up.
But most of the time, my networking takes place where I work – on the computer and by phone. I build relationships with my clients via email, by phone, by sharing information I think they might find helpful, by filling their needs, and asking questions instead of making blind assumptions. I send cards at holiday times, and sometimes more often. Periodically when I’m thinking of someone, I’ll shoot them a quick email asking how they are doing or checking in with them. But not often enough to be a pest or disruption, but periodically to let them know that I haven’t forgotten about them. We all like to remembered, and to be thought of periodically.
I can’t go out and meet new people often. My time is limited. But in this online world, I meet new people anyway. Through forums, Yahoo groups, blogs, websites, and my favorite – online classes. Some people I keep in touch with via email or IM. Others I follow on Linkedin, and most recently Facebook and Twitter. So networking really isn’t an issue, unless I want it to be. I am limited in my at-home lifestyle by only my imagination and the amount of time and energy I choose to put forth.
The real point of networking, as this article points out, is not to meet as many people as you can, but to build relationships. Helping others, encouraging other, and being a resource for them – that’s what we should be about anyway.