Networking is a good thing, right? It is a great way for professionals to meet people, build relationships, find opportunities, expand your skill sets and establish a reputation. So is there really too much of a good thing? It may be surprising, but the answer is definitely yes.
If you stop and think about it, you can probably identify at least a couple of people in your business community or industry that are over-networked. These individuals tend to belong to many organizations, attend tons of events, and participate in awards programs each and every year, basically doing anything that gains them visibility. While each of these networking activities in a reasonable amount is positive, doing too many can lead to a case of quantity over quality.
Anyone can be visible – if you are in enough places often enough, people will begin to recognize you, and your name will become known. Being credible, however, is a higher level of recognition, where your expertise, integrity and influence develop into a powerful reputation.
So how can you create the right kind of visibility while developing credibility?
Participate only in relevant organizations and events. Focus your participation on things that make sense for your business, rather than trying to be in as many places as possible.
Network with your true peers. If you are an executive or business owner, get involved where other executives network. Don’t sell yourself short and network in groups and events comprised of professionals at lower levels.
Focus on leadership roles rather than membership. You will get much more out of an organization if you volunteer for a committee or board, rather than simply participating as a member. It is better to single yourself out as a leader of one organization than to merely be a member of several.
Develop relationships, not contacts. Simply meeting many people through networking is not effective. If a large number of people have heard of you and perhaps even met you once or twice, this constitutes visibility. If a smaller number of people personally know you, can speak to your unique capabilities, and will serve as an advocate for you, this constitutes credibility.
It is relatively easy to become well-known, but that alone will probably not get you the results you hope for. Strategic networking can be a powerful tool to help you develop both visibility and credibility, which is of real value.