YOU may have heard the saying, “It’s not what you know but whom you know.”

Of course, you should also know your stuff, but if you have the right contacts, you can get on the highway to success rather than meandering through unbeaten tracks and trails that may not even lead you to your destination.

Why do you need to network? It’s about leveraging — you need people in your life because you can’t do everything yourself. You need others to help you get things done, both in business and your personal life. By networking and knowing who to ask for help, we can get things done faster, easier and better, thus saving time, money and energy.

The maxim holds: “Your net worth is proportionate to your network.”

If you want to be wealthy, make a lot of friends. To me, there’s no such thing as a “self-made millionaire”. We need other people, from the day we are born to the day we die. Every person who crosses our path has something to contribute to our eventual success (or failure) in life.

So, the next question is, how do you network effectively? Before you rush out to join every club you hear about, you have to have a clear goal as to why you are planning to increase your network.

Is it to get a job? Or increase your business? To raise funds for a charity? Or to meet more people with common interests? To develop better relationships and make more friends? Or even to meet a mate?

Whatever your personal goal is, the key is to get started immediately. Don’t put if off until you need it, because networking is about building relationships with people — it takes time. You don’t join a network just to get what you want when you want it. That’s not how it works.

To build good, strong networks, you need to focus on giving. The more you give, the more you will receive. Here are some suggestions on what groups you can join:

Alumni groups

Make a list of the schools and institutions you have attended before, professional groups that you belong to, and so on. There is bound to be an alumni that you can get active in.

Recently, a group of my old schoolmates banded together and started a mostly online group of “old girls”. It was great, as the group has since expanded to several countries.

I’m also active in the Certified Professional Trainers and Coaches alumni, which meets once a month in Singapore, and it is a great avenue to network with other people in the same industry.

Volunteer

Choose a cause that you feel passionate about and if the purpose is to grow your business, make sure it enhances rather than impedes business development.

However, make sure you have time to commit to it, otherwise you may come across as using the organisation for your own personal agenda, and in the long run, it may do you more harm than good.

Be heard

Writing articles or speaking at events is a fantastic way to increase visibility, and thus, your network. I have made many friends from all over the world through my speaking engagements.

When I accept an invitation to speak, I maintain contact with people in the audience by sending them my e-zine or asking them to go to my blog or my Facebook page.

Even if you are not a trainer or writer by profession, start thinking like an “expert” in your line of work or area of interest and just “be” one. That’s part of branding yourself!

Networking groups

An easy way to get started is simply to identify existing network groups that are open to anyone to join, either by paying a fee, or in many cases, for free.

Select one that has members who are in line with your target market or industry, whether for business or personal development. Check if the time and venue works to your convenience.

If there are no groups that suit you, then start one! An easy way to look for or start a group is to go into Meetup.com.

Social media

I have also discovered the wonders of social media networking. I have reconnected with many old friends and made new ones through popular sites like Facebook and Linked-In.

Here’s a tip: If you are networking for a business or professional purpose, behave appropriately. That means, don’t post messages that will reflect negatively on you or use your account for playing games or sending hugs and kisses to everyone.