The tight and volatile job market is leading many job hunters to understand networking is an essential part of any career. Nationwide, networking groups are...

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The tight and volatile job market is leading many job hunters to understand networking is an essential part of any career.

Nationwide, networking groups are seeing their membership rise. Networking groups serve a role vital to the future of an area’s economy. Some aim to get young professionals so engaged in the community that they’ll never leave. Others give professionals a chance to create a network that will expand their client lists and job prospects.

When it comes to networking, there is one mantra that must be followed: You must give if you want to get.

Take the experience of Gary Brown, president of Rochester, N.Y.’s True Networking Thursdays.

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At a TNT event in the late 1990s, he exchanged business cards with another professional: Andrew Brown of the Brown and Hutchinson law firm.

“One thing led to another,” Gary Brown recalled, “and I ended up helping to market his law firm and his business took off from there. I wasn’t looking for anything in return. I was just planting the seed and wanted to help his business.”

But Gary Brown got his payback in 2004. He wasn’t job-hunting, but Andrew Brown spotted a job that really suited him. Gary Brown has since snagged that job as director of marketing for Batavia Downs, a racetrack.

Networking is generally considered the best way to find a job, surpassing other tools such as newspaper and Internet job postings.

“It taps into hidden job opportunities,” said Annette DiPalma, a consultant with Employee Relations Associates in Penfield, N.Y. “Most job seekers find employment through successful networking.”

But Clair Catillaz, a global strategic account executive at DBM, where 81 percent of workers got their jobs through networking, warns professionals that attending networking events won’t be enough to snag that job or bolster business.

“It’s the quality of the networking — not just the quantity,” she said.

Not every attempt to forge a relationship succeeds.

It should grow, but with lots of attention and patience.

• Pay attention. Don’t feel as though you have to do all the talking. Be curious and listen to others.

• Don’t forget the follow-up. After you’ve mastered the listening part, give specific responses. Anything is better than “Yeah, me too.”

• Remember names. Pay attention, writing down names if you have to.

Treat everyone the same. You don’t need to know super-important people to network. Everyone has a story to tell and contacts to share.

Find a role model. Aim for someone who’s great at making connections.

Never forget to say thank you. Try a hand-written note, a phone call — maybe even tickets to an event or an invitation to lunch.