Is Your Network Working?

According to Dow Chemical Executive Katie Hunt, a wide-reaching network of colleagues, peers and friends is one of the most important components of professional success.

By Catherine T. "Katie" Hunt, Ph.D., Director of Innovation Sourcing and Sustainable Technologies, The Dow Chemical Co.

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As I've traveled for work this year, I've been especially fortunate to connect with women all around the world and to celebrate the International Year of Chemistry. No matter where I go, it seems I'm always seeing a fresh face or being introduced to someone new. Our world is growing increasingly global every day, and sustaining a wide-reaching network of colleagues, peers and friends is one of the most important components of professional success. It's called a "network" because it should "work" for you.

It's called a "network" because it should "work" for you.

Networking allows you to build job contacts, to develop credibility, and to enhance your professional expertise.  Networking increases your effectiveness as a business person by forging the pathways necessary for you to learn the culture and politics of an organization, develop communication and leadership skills, and gain insights into a huge range of jobs, business models, and markets.

Is your network working?  Let's find out . . .

1. Examine Your Network
When starting out on your quest to network – whether it be to bolster your current professional circle or build one from the ground up – make sure you're ready to give it all you've got. Focus your energy on improving your career environment. As I mentioned in my last column, when I first moved into a global role, I realized that what I lacked was a global network. The good news is that the power of observation and the willingness to act are all you need.

Make a list of all your current contacts through a search of your personal and professional e-mail accounts, desktop rolodex and networking sites to which you belong. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are all great places to find comrades from years past. You'll be surprised at how many you'll find. If you're at a live networking event, actively seek out people you don't know -- but should.

2. Develop Your One-Minute Personal Elevator Speech
Don't be just another talking head – SPICE it up. (1)  When you're getting ready to introduce yourself, remember to Shake hands firmly, Pitch yourself succinctly, project an Image of confidence, Connect with others and have a short Elevator speech memorized that gives a nice bit of information about your life and your career.

Your elevator speech should include the following:
• Name
• Role(s) and expertise
• Interests and goals
• An interesting tidbit about yourself or your personal experiences
• Your desired outcome of this interaction – a meeting, a potential partnership?

Be concise, articulate and memorable -- and you'll be growing your network in no time.

3. Find Your Audience
Once you have your elevator speech, it's time to find the right audience. Do your homework on where the kinds of people you'd like to meet are likely to be.  Association meetings? Chemical conferences? Cybercafes? 

Develop some personal goals before the event, such as adding three new contacts or meeting someone from a particular organization. Arrive early to events so you can get comfortable with the layout and take an opportunity to mix and mingle.

4. Deliver Your Personal Elevator Speech
With networking, being memorable requires great delivery.  Shake hands firmly, maintain good eye contact, and don't forget to give out your business card.

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