The new global megatrendMobility, big data, social media, cloud. All (tech originated) megatrends clearly serve and lead to ONE NEW GLOBAL TREND FOR HUMANITY: PROTRACTED CONNECTION. It’s like people finally realized they are not alone on the planet, they can reach further to their existing consociates, therefore they strive to multiply WHOM they know at the fastest possible degree. And they heavily use technology to do so, ascribing to it the responsibility to create more substance for their lives.Some years ago, we used to call it “PR” (Public Relations). Now, we kindly call it (mainly Business) Networking. The so much misunderstood concept of “PR”, linked with lots of negative connotations, is so old fashioned nowadays that none is even mentioning it. On the contrary, the explosively increasing notion of Networking is gaining share and reputation minute by minute. It seems it works – or at least it comes closer to today’s demanding expectations.Yes, crisis has contributed positively to spreading out this trend. But still Networking reflects and expresses – in an unquestionable way – an inner need of contemporary people.The factsThere are some facts we should seriously take into account regarding business networking:(Too) much noise around it lately; in some cases more than it really accounts for.It is (hazardously) revealing. It brings up real life circumstances; none can hide behind a smaller or a bigger lie for long. Transparency is the name of the game now.It can work as a tool to regain old friends, relatives, colleagues, people you have once met and then lost. A great service!It can seriously contribute to finding a new job, to identifying a better employer, to building a stronger partnership, to detecting a prospect customer.It works even when you’re absent (and in some cases without your will)The “all-weather-connected-person”So, what are the main characteristics of the “all-weather-connected-person”? It is the person that eagerly and with little hesitation hands out business cards and cell phone numbers, attends events and gatherings (business or not), gets introduced and introduces other people, the person who is ready to talk about even very personal moments to someone she just met. Networking individuals share this strong feeling of being comfortable with people they do not really know very well. But it works even this way. People are less rigid, more open, more relaxed to make new acquaintances. And sometimes this new trend helps them build new strong business partnerships.The history behindIs business networking a new practice? Not at all. It exists years now under no name, no concrete identity, no tangible target sometimes, but with a solid substance.More than 10 years ago, while I had been working for a large multinational with major activities in Ireland, I experienced an excellent non targeted type of business networking. Anxious for having to stay over for the weekend, I realized that Friday afternoon was a regular “men networking day” with outings at a nearby pub where a lot of business issues were discussed and resolved over some pines of Guinness! Men are still much better in networking than women are!Recently, I am struck by the fact that because of expanded business networking practices I get to know people at a rate as high as that I encountered when I was a first year student at the university!However, the (hi)story is half said if stopped at that point. It is noticeable that sometimes networking takes place toward no direction at all. This is “networking just for networking” under the ill notion that “you never know who will prove useful to you in the future”. Or it’s done in a ridiculous way where the willing-to-connect person sacrifices her dignity in order to meet someone she considers “important”.The secretThe secret behind successful, long term, beneficiary networking is based on CHARACTER. It is not that difficult to obtain a contact nowadays; then you need CONTENT to sustain it. If you miss content, you lose the contact … for ever.Serious business networking can offer a very concrete benefit. That of you been kept at “top of mind”. In many cases, professionals feel that this is the only way to proceed with their careers effectively. So they get connected at any place, any time, even any way.The abuseSome months ago, I encountered a business acquaintance of mine and in the course of our discussion he told me “I met Z colleague of yours”. I was astonished because the person he mentioned had been an ex-colleague of mine for more than a year back. The ex-colleague avoided to mention his current status. He had not even changed it on the social medium he used most to increase his network. I wondered “how does he expect people to consider him as a reliable professional if he doesn’t talk the truth about his current status?” After some weeks, I was cross-reading a business social medium I greatly use and I found out that another person whom I very well knew was mentioning studies at a university he had never attended! Again I wondered “Doesn’t he understand how damaging this fake piece of info could prove for his future endeavors?”The rulesNetworking is good, but one has to follow some basic rules:Rule No1: Be yourself. Do not pretend being the person you are not. People need to trust you, first of all, for what you really are.Rule No2: Say explicitly the truth about your past and your current status. You will be better respected.Rule No3: Social media help, but you have to use them cautiously.Rule No4: After creating new contacts, you have to keep them “alive”. Otherwise, you’ve just lost time and credibility.Rule No5: Networking may open your social and professional horizons. It will not ensure you get the job position you have in mind.Rule No6: Be ready to give! Your contacts expect you to be helpful, too.The aggregationNetworking is good. Apart from being good, it is also the new reality we have to accept and respect. It’s not a panacea. Do not treat it as such. It cannot solve all business issues, it cannot alone determine your business future, it cannot – most of all – transform mediocrity to perfection.If you do networking in order to give and share, well done! If you do networking in order to ensure future business benefits, beware! It works this way only if particular prerequisites are met.The secret of a successful networking practice lies in the true personality characteristics that would bring benefits back anyway. Networking is just speeding up the process of compensation. In some cases this might only be some kind of personal contentment.Work on your net being assured that the better person you are the more you’ll be given back; keep in mind that the more fake you are the sooner you’ll find yourself neglected and isolated.Yes, Networking can work despite all odds!