You hear all the time about the advantages networking has on your career. To those of you who are on the introverted side, the thought of networking might make you cringe. If you're like me, networking conjures visions of making a cold call to the uncle of the wife of the cousin a guy you used to work with to see if he has any job openings.
But networking, in the best sense, is a simpler, more organic endeavor. You start "networking" the day you start sharing office with other people. Here's what I mean.
If your co-workers (and your boss) find you knowledgeable and friendly and easy to work with, they will carry that impression of you when they go on to other jobs.
If you're undependable and absent-minded and are a general production headache, they'll remember that too.
Even if you're a certified genius, but you're surly and you give off a palpable aura of bitterness and acrimony, it's more than likely they'll remember that aura before anything else.
And in either of the last two cases, if this person happens to be hiring for another company, you can rest assured they'll go with their gut feeling about you.
Think about it. If you had a bad experience at a certain restaurant, you wouldn't go around recommending it to your friends even if it's entirely possible they'd have a different experience. It's just human nature.
Also, don't discount the notion of six degrees of separation (roughly the idea that anyone can form a chain of personal contacts leading to any other person, with no more than six links in the chain). Consider the nightmare of going in for an interview for your dream job and discovering the interviewer is the man or woman you worked with years ago that you smarted off to every chance you got.
You can't be nice all the time. Just don't underestimate how the attitude you have now can impact your life in the future.
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.