When Networking, Remember to Come Up for AIR

Daily you hear that you need to network whether or not you are employed. If you are like most people, you cringe when you hear the word networking. Yet, we all network as part of everyday life. Each time we interact with someone, we make a connection. It helps to reframe networking as building relationships because that is really the purpose of networking. When we think about networking as building relationships or making connections it may feel less intimidating and more comfortable. If you find yourself dreading networking or feel like you don’t know where to start, simply take a breath and get some AIR.

Identifying what you want to learn and preparing what questions to ask instills confidence, helps you relax, and makes networking feel more natural -like a breath of fresh air. Asking for AIR keeps you focused on the insights and guidance you seek, and that people are happy to provide. It also helps build mutually rewarding relationships because you too can share your knowledge and ideas. It’s a classic win-win scenario.

Relationships are fostered continuously when you interact with other people. You can’t force relationships, but you can nurture them through your regular conversations with colleagues and clients inside and outside of the organization. Relationships are built on a foundation of shared information; in other words, it is all about getting to know someone. In the workplace forming relationships can be tactical in nature but they should still be genuine. Forming relationships comes naturally to some but not to all; it’s an important soft skill that anyone can develop.

Simple steps to building relationships, which is a secret of successful networking, include:

  • Remember the acronym AIR. Networking is having a conversation where you share ideas, ask for Advice, provide Information, and offer Referrals or Recommendations.
  • Focus on three key elements to build relationships: (1) trust, (2) acceptance, and (3) open communication.
  • Don’t rush it. Building and fostering relationships takes time and are well worth the effort.

If you are a job seeker who is networking and asking for AIR, gear your questions to your specific interests and career goals. Networking as a job search method is a proven and oft recommended approach. When networking, you learn about different fields, types of positions, company information, industries, and the job market. It also exposes you to hidden positions which have not been advertised including jobs never filled, employers who choose to fill jobs via referrals, newly budgeted positions, jobs resulting from reorganization, or unannounced corporate changes.

If you have a job, you may feel as if you do not have any time to network. During the workday it is easy to be distracted by emails, meetings, and juggling priorities such that you become absorbed in your work. Take a few minutes each day to actively seek out colleagues for collaboration. The most effective leaders and employees know that slowing down, listening, and being present during the workday goes a long way toward fostering strong relationships.

Building relationships is easier when you use the AIR technique. People hire people and those that you have relationships with know who you are and the impact you can have on an organization, it is easier to ask for a referral from someone you know. Just like breathing AIR, you need to always be networking.

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