Networking is a great way to potentially find your next position - or it can just be a great way to expand your circle of like-minded people across your industry or other industries. It can be a bit overdone, though and should not be considered the main way to find your next position. That being said, it is still a great resource to have at your disposal - the ability to have people from other companies or even just other departments of your company knowing about you and your skills could lead to new opportunities.
Networking is WORK though - you cannot just assume you are networking because you have a LinkedIn account - you have to continually work on your network of contacts - keep in touch and not just to ask for something. The articles I am highlighting today look at networking at industry events, networking through email and general networking tips. Oh, and as a bonus, I am including my old school advice on how to network from 2002. It is an oldie, but a goodie. A lot of my tips (I wrote 7 rules of networking) might be old, but can still work. When I was networking in 2000, I was told by everyone I met with that they had never received a personal letter asking for advice before - we all know this is not the case anymore as networking is now a common act to the point that receiving a request from someone you do not know can be considered a junk email/letter.
Attending events in your industry and/or in a professional organization is a way to keep up the face to face contact with those on your LinkedIn or to meet new people to add to your LinkedIn. Fortune has some quick rules in their article "How to Work a Room at an Important Networking Event" such as to carefully choose which events to go to and to look your best. These are both important items - you do not want to go to every event but pick the ones that make the most sense to your goals - oh and of course, you should know what your goals are before you attend any event. Are you there to make contacts for your eventual career move? Are you investigating a new industry and want to find out more about it by speaking to people in said industry? Or are you looking for sales leads?
Of course, you can also network outside of events - so Mashable has a great graphic and article detailing the best way to email a contact for networking purposes. The basics are to first use social media (perhaps Twitter or LinkedIn) to make a connection to the person's recent career activity. Second,offer your insight on something they recently did or perhaps send them an article that applies to them. Third, be specific (what are you interested in knowing, how long might the call take, what are your questions - include them in advance) and finally, show your appreciation.
The last article really ties it all together - networking is a two way street and it is work - you must take the time to connect with your "connections" more than just a static LinkedIn or even Facebook account. You must add value to the conversation and also be willing to help others. What do you think about the tips and advice given here? What do you think about my (vintage) 7 rules of networking? Would they still work today?
Fortune How to work a room at an important networking event
Mashable How to Write Networking Emails That Won't End Up In the Trash
Fortune Forget What You Know About Networking, Do This Instead
Lisa Vento Nielsen