Supply chain management professionals face growing daily challenges from internal and external demands, time constraints, and resource bottlenecks. Finding time to build a network of resources and contacts both within and outside their organizations at times seems like an insurmountable task. But the art of networking is about taking the time to do it right, and seeing it as an important element of workplace and personal success.

Networking internally and externally is critical to future success in meeting organizational and departmental goals and objectives – and in finding your next position. Time spent networking is time well spent because it provides:
- Organization intelligence
- Collaborative relationships
- A “heads-up” on changes
- Recognizable faces and names
- Early alerts on new openings within the organization
- Career opportunities
- Insight into the goals and objectives of others within the organization
- Better information for decision making

There are certain skills which are vital to both good networking and success: listening, questioning, using the platinum rule, finding commonalities, and taking the initiative in getting to know and help others.

Really listening to what others say and watching their body language tells us what is important to them. People like to feel important, appreciated, and listened to - and are more willing to help someone who has made them feel that way. Also, learning about others offers the insight needed to communicate well and assist them. It may also provide organizational and departmental insight as well. The advice is simple: listen first, speak second.

Asking open-ended questions can unearth a lot more information than closed-ended, yes-or-no inquiries. Open-ended questioning yields many more facts and opinions and can lead into a series of questions providing more and more detailed, and therefore more helpful, information.

The Platinum Rule (“Treat others as they wish to be treated”) is a variation of the more common Golden Rule (“Treat others as you wish to be treated”), and may yield more results in today’s environment. People within and outside the organization and in professional organizations may all be looking for something different than what you perceive about them. Good communication is about considering the other person’s unique needs and wants, and communicating in their style of communication. It also requires working with various personality types.

Finding commonalities rather than differences, stressing win-win opportunities, and finding out what is behind the issues and positions of others, builds relationships and networks. But this requires using the skills described here.

Taking the initiative is about stepping out and making friends, influencing people, making positive contributions, and being memorable. As Maya Angelou once said: “… people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Professionals need others for information, support, and resources. No one can succeed without the help of others, and a network is a vital part of achieving that success. Networking successfully requires an action plan. It is not a project but a process, and it requires both internal and external focus.

An internal focus can include:
- Scheduling one-on-one meetings with others in the organization to learn more about them, their department, objectives, and goals
- Participating on committees that provide opportunities to work with others outside of one’s department, even if the role is small
- Stopping and introducing oneself to others in the organization
- Smiling and greeting others
- Following up on others’ promotions with well wishes and congratulations
- Identifying information important to others and sending it to them
- Scheduling internal trade shows for others in the organization to attend
- Presenting opportunities for learning new ideas from suppliers and industry experts
- Using social networking for discussion groups and postings
- Making it easy for others to work with you and your department
- Getting serious about internal customer service
- Learning about others, and then helping others learn about you

An external focus can include:
- Strategically identifying the professional organizations that offer the greatest return on investment
- Getting acquainted with others at those meetings
- Collecting business cards and following up
- Staying connected
- Putting oneself in the right place and at the right time

Participating in and serving on the Boards of professional organizations gets noticed by senior management, other business leaders, and future possible co-workers and bosses. Also, those professional groups are an opportunity for the career-focused to become known in the Supply Chain profession as well as to develop leadership skills. One of the rules of good human relations is reciprocity, defined as: “helping others in meeting their goals as they have helped you meet yours.”

We began by stating that the art of networking is about making it a part of every day and expanded our outlook to accepting networking as an important element of workplace and personal success. So - when will you schedule your first new “one-on-one?” to revitalize your network?

This article is the 66th and last in the monthly series authored by the Institute for Supply Management’s Logistics & Transportation Group Board Members since January of 2011 We have enjoyed sharing our thoughts with our eUpdate audience, appreciate the feedback we have received from you over the years, and hope you will continue reading PARCEL's eUpdate. Our past topics are available at PARCEL's website, in the content library.

Marilyn Gettinger is the owner of New Directions Consulting Group, which offers customized workshops and a team-oriented consulting method to assist organizations in being successful in their global supply chain management efforts. She can be reached at, or (908) 709-0656, or