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Networking (borrowed from it: German  networks ) means establishing and maintaining personal and professional contacts. The aim is to create a social network of people who are related to one another and who support, help or cooperate privately, but above all professionally, without the performance and benefits for third parties (such as customers , companies, society or the state) being relevant.

A difference between contact and relationship is usually emphasized in terms of value. Relationship means a “two-way, solidified interaction”, while a contact can also mean a simple exchange of business cards .


The terms network or German " Netzwerk " are misleading because they refer to different things and systems. In the IT sector, “network” can refer to a computer network, while a social network means the connection between people. In particular, professional networks can create trust by sharing recommendations and experiences in life. Through online communities such as Facebook , Twitter and LinkedIn , there are new additional options.

Business networking is often used to define professional networking , although this almost automatically excludes the use of private relationships for the job, which in practice is rarely separable. Colloquially, "Vitamin B" (B for relationship) is often used for networking . The term has a negative connotation alongside the synonyms “ Seilschaft ”, “ Klüngel ” or “ Nepotism ”, since its media use describes abusive networking or corruption, such as the Wulff affair .

Because "networking" is derived from the English term "networking", that is, it implies an English / American tradition, there are neologies that emphasize the European origins of network traditions: Based on a passage in Connected! , a networking standard work by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler, the term dictyonomy (Greek, dictyo for network) was introduced, which was established in the Berlin business world by Alexander Wolf. It should stand for European, value-based networking.

History of networking

Modern networks

Networks of the 20th and 21st centuries span all areas of society and are often not clearly recognizable. Our modern society is built on innumerable network structures, we are more networked today than any generation before us. The economy is still driving this networking forward: globalized flows of goods, international services, working in the cloud , social media . Everything is organized decentrally in networks.


In the private sector, cooperation is the best way to increase business opportunities. Networking should ultimately establish contact, build a relationship and create the necessary trust in order to develop a cooperation. The network researcher Martina Kauffeld-Monz has researched regional innovation systems and 23 networks and their success concept and explains "trust" as an essential factor for networking: "Networks can make a decisive contribution to the development of trust." Students are encouraged to make contacts when looking for a job in the sense of employability socialize and maintain relationships.

Career factor

Networking is an important factor in a career . It is often emphasized that “it does not necessarily depend on what you know, but who you know.” In the interests of employability, students are encouraged to make contacts and maintain relationships when looking for a job. For this reason some students join fraternities or fraternities. But networking is also used on the job to advance one's career. According to the Institute for Labor Market Research IAB, 25% of all positions are filled on the basis of recommendations. American researchers at North Carolina State University even assume that more than 50% of Germans have already got a job through personal contacts. However, many employees have scruples about using vitamin B for job search. However, it is generally accepted when “a position is filled with a qualified applicant through the recommendation of a friend.” Even the Federal Employment Agency (BA) recommends “activating contacts” when looking for a job. In this context, networking is understood as a door opener (Alexander Wolf in the start-up scene). "If nobody knows me, no doors open" , says Gerald Uhlig-Romero, owner of the Einstein Unter den Linden coffee house, a meeting place for many well-known personalities to cultivate relationships.


If companies, service providers, research facilities and institutions come together regionally, one generally speaks of clusters . The terms “networks” and “clusters” are often used synonymously. By "new products and services to be introduced quickly in the economic cycle networks or clusters." However, the prospects for individual companies within a cluster are controversial: "Benefits of mind positioning of companies in the cluster are barely detectable: There are successful businesses outside and unsuccessful Companies within clusters. "

Business clubs

The first modern business clubs arose in the mid-18th century in London's West End. Here businessmen from different professional groups came together in closed circles, exchanged information, discussed matters, initiated cooperation and forged plans together. From the UK, club culture spread across the world. Aided by the then global spread of English culture, clubs based on the London model emerged throughout the British colonial empire. In addition to the aspect of economic advantages through maintaining the personal network, the aspect of the "home away from home" became more and more important (this is still the basic concept of many established business clubs today). The founding of most of the “social” or service clubs , which are still successful worldwide today, fell into the maturity phase of industrialization: Rotary (1905), Kiwanis (1915), Lions (1917) and Zonta (1919 ) were established in the early 20th century ), Soroptimists (1921), and numerous other groups. The Freemasons had "children" who cared less about mythological backgrounds and inner growth, but instead had an eye on everyday life in a fast-paced world. Today's club statistics are impressive: there are around 70,000 clubs of this type worldwide with a total of around 3 million members, of which just under 150,000 are in Germany alone. The majority of the networks that exist today are based on earlier models and continue their traditions.

Network Marketing - Referral Marketing

Network Marketing or Multi Level Marketing (MLM) is a multi-level form of direct sales . In network marketing, sales partners of a company sell products to end users in order to gain further intermediaries. Network marketing is also known as structure sales, affiliate marketing or recommendation marketing, as the products are recommended from person to person. No expensive advertising campaigns are carried out, as is the case with off-the-shelf products.


Networks and the supposedly most correct or effective form of networking are not only discussed on Internet portals such as Karriere or Absolventa, but also in numerous publications on the subject. Networking has also found its way into German universities as an interdisciplinary subject. In addition, social and economic networks are the subject of scientific investigation in the fields of sociology , psychology and computer science.

Network research

A distinction is made between network research in computer science, the analysis of social and economic networks and historical network research. However, the transitions are fluid. The social network analysis means the "investigation of relationship structures". According to Hennig / Stegbauer, this can be done from different "control rooms". On the one hand, by bringing the individual into focus and analyzing his or her relationship to the others and to each other. Or the “survey of entire networks”, whereby “characteristics of people play a much smaller, rather negligible role”.


At German universities, networking is, on the one hand, the subject of scientific research in the sense of network research and, on the other hand, it is taught in an interdisciplinary manner, but mostly at economically-oriented universities. Internationally, networking is treated as an obligatory soft skill at universities and is taught, for example, in seminars on employability or sales. Networking is particularly important at universities that invest in young leaders. The students should grow into a career network during their training. Another aspect of networking at universities are the alumni networks - groups of former students (“ alumni ”) who meet at regular intervals to network or otherwise stay in contact with one another.


Networking can also take place online. Facebook is no longer only used to make private contacts. But there are also communities that are mainly used professionally: For example LinkedIn (2003), XING (2003 as openBC) and Viadeo (2004). Today LinkedIn has 80 million, XING 14 million and Viadeo three million members. The titan of this revolution so far is Facebook (one billion members). In the meantime, more and more established networks are trying to take the online route and thus connect with the new times: For example, there has been an “E- Rotary ” club in Berlin since 2011 , most other clubs are tinkering with various of their own online communities .

See also


  • Nicholas A. Christakis, James H. Fowler: Connected! The power of social networks and why happiness is contagious. Frankfurt am Main 2010, ISBN 978-3-10-011350-4 .
  • Peer-Arne Böttcher: “Hand it!” The way to be successful together. Hamburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-86774-286-3 .
  • Alexander Wolf: Dictyonomy - The Networking Bible. Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-8423-8237-4 .
  • Ferrazzi, Keith: Never go out to eat alone! And other secrets about networking and success. Kulmbach 2007, ISBN 978-3-938350-21-8 .
  • Nina Grunenberg: The Miracle Workers - Networks of German Society 1942–1966. Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-88680-765-9 .
  • Andreas Lutz: Practical Guide Networking - From Address Management to Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-7093-0200-2 .
  • Monika Scheddin: Success strategy Networking, making, organizing and maintaining business contacts. Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-86906-576-2 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Networking opens doors . Website of the start-up scene. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  2. Hennig in a dictyonomy interview at a 60: 15: 1 salon ( memento from June 30, 2014 in the Internet Archive ). Youtube video.
  3. ^ "On a glass with ..." In: Tagesspiegel from Berlin of October 22, 2013, p. 46.
  4. The renaissance of values . Website ethics in business. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  5. Alexander Wolf: Networking - A history of society. In: Dictyonomy, The Networking Bible. Berlin 2012, p. 93 ff.
  6. Dr. Martina Kauffeld-Monz - biography . Website of the Institute for Research and Technology. Retrieved February 4, 2014.
  7. Martina Kauffeld-Monz: In an interview. In: The Truth About Networks Berlin 2012, p. 89
  8. Marina Hennig: Problems of the integration of theory and method in network research. In: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, series: Network research. Wiesbaden 2012, p. 7.
  9. ^ Fraternity Gothia - a bond for life . Website Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  10. Career accelerator . Website Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  11. No more writing applications . CareerSpiegel website. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  12. Every second job was about vitamin B . Website CIO Careers. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  13. aid by vitamin B . Berliner Zeitung website. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  14. Networking opens doors . Website of the start-up scene. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  15. Gerald Uhlig-Romero: In an interview. In: The Truth About Networks, Dictyonomy Institute. Berlin 2012, p. 5.
  16. Dagmar Wöhrl (former State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Economics): in a speech on the occasion of the Cluster-Offensive-Bavaria congress, Nuremberg, July 22, 2009.
  17. Martina From Hold Eisebith in a speech at the Annual Meeting of the Municipal Economic Development in NRW, Duisburg, July 8, 2010 . Website of the NRW City Council. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  18. Alexander Wolf: Networking - A history of society. In: Dictyonomy, The Networking Bible. Berlin 2012, p. 120 ff.
  19. What is Network Marketing? . Website Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  22. Marina Hennig: Problems of the integration of theory and method in network research. In: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, series: Netzwerkforschung Wiesbaden 2012, p. 8.
  23. Seminar on Sales and Networking . Website of the University of Rostock. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  24. Career contacts in a closed society . Website time / career. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  25. Social media statistics . Social media statistics website. Retrieved February 6, 2014.