Networking can be one of the most effective ways of creating career opportunities or expanding a business. According to Alice Kaushal, networking can act as a bridge for career moves within a company, changing a career or expanding a customer base.
She says successful networking should be viewed as a continuing process, not an event. "It can take many months to build the basis of a comprehensive network, which then needs to be continually developed," says Kaushal, managing director of Refine Consulting, which provides training in cross-cultural communication, business etiquette, customer relations and enhancing image.
Used properly, she says, job hunting can become easier by using a network of personal and professional contacts to devise search strategies and meet new career contacts. Networking can also be a useful support mechanism through the difficulties of change - for example, when people lose their jobs because of downsizing and reorganisation.
"You never know when you are really going to need your business contacts. However, it is important to be aware that networking is not all one-way traffic. The thing to remember is that networking is not just about the individual. You have to be prepared to help others," Kaushal says.
Using an example taken from her own experience, Kaushal told the packed seminar, "Influence Your Way to the Top: Understanding Power, Positive Politics and Networking", how networking resulted in her securing one of her most memorable jobs.
As a new arrival in Australia and armed with a degree in hotel management, she had been unable to find a management position, so instead took a job as a waitress.
A journalist friend, part of Kaushal's network who had recently interviewed the CEO of a large hotel chain which was expanding its business, recommended the CEO make a booking at the restaurant where Kaushal worked. Taking her friend's advice, Kaushal asked her boss if she could provide waitress service to the CEO and took the opportunity to introduce herself.
Subsequently, she was invited for an interview and offered a senior management position in a new hotel project in Tasmania.
"Through my own experience, I learned how networking can be a powerful tool. It led to a job that still provides me with many happy memories," Kaushal says.