So I had lunch today with a great woman named Jennifer who wanted to talk with me about the Maine Women's Fund, a non-profit group she works with. Her sister in Florida had forwarded her my blog on the off chance we would know each other. We emailed back and forth and agreed to meet when she was in town.

Card1711 I think most people but especially those new in their career or geographic area often hear about the importance of networking. Most people think they can just hand their business cards out and call it a day but I think there is some prep work we all should do a little more often pre-networking and targeted networking. Allow me to explain.

Pre-networking: A Period of Reflection

Kelly at Almost Frugal had a post today about how she would describe herself (five adjectives)and how these traits help her and deter her from reaching goals. When we network, I don't think most of us are thinking of our traits. I responded to Kelly's post and a few hours later, I was having lunch with Jennifer and thinking about how my traits would affect the work I could do with the organization. I found myself checking in with my goals and traits silently throughout the meal. Not wanting to take time off from work turned into an opportunity to call into a Maine Women's Fund meeting rather then going there for a lunch. Knowing that I love being social  opened the door to some possible internet PR work. If I hadn't kept my goals and traits (not wanting to miss work and being social) in mind, I may have prematurely volunteered to do anything for this organization rather then digging just below the surface to make sure my offers matched with my interests.

Jennifer and I also talked about the personal goals/networking pairing at lunch. The New Girls Network through her organization helps women not only network but trains them in leadership and goal setting skills. She used an example of philanthropy goals. If the environment was an issue important to you, would you just write a $20 check to any environmental organization that sent you a mailing? Or would you think further of your goals and values and then make a calculated decision?

In the pre-networking stage, it's valuable to think of your traits, skills, and goals. No, you don't have to deeply examine them before any interaction but being mindful helps you make better decisions. It kept me from overcommitting and allows me to work with myself rather then against my goals and skills.

Targeted Networking

So it's one thing to go to a business event and collect business cards but thinking internally about what is the best network for you takes a little more effort. Nancy Marshall (the Maine PR Maven) recently helped create a network for Maine non-profits to share resources. Meanwhile I've been thinking of my pet project, a network of Maine bloggers. It's all about people coming together over a common goal and sometimes, the network opportunities exist (great) and sometimes you have to create them.

Don't get my wrong, I love knowing lots of people on Twitter and Myspace (and now Facebook) but being mindful of your audience and where they'll be is your job when you're promoting yourself!

I did an exercise at a conference I went to where we had to picture our typical business client. Are they male or female? How old are they? What kind of car do they drive? You get the idea. Think of the person you want to know about you or your work and think of as many of their traits as possible. Then think about where they hang out. And you should go hang out there! (This applies to both physical and online locations.)

Save yourself (and the people you talk to) the time and effort by thinking about what you want to be/do and focus your efforts on things that'll help you get there. That said, any relationship could end up being pretty valuable so  just update that Facebook profile every once in awhile.

As a step towards my goal of getting better at Facebook, my friend Randy is going to show me how to add flair to my page so I'll look cooler. Now that's networking!

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