Networking: Is It More Than Just Finding People?

“It’s Not What You Know, But Who You Know.” Chances are, that is something you have heard once or twice in your life … a well-meaning parent, a mentor, or supportive colleague. This begs the question, “How much truth is there to this?”

In reality, this is sage advice, but at the same time, it is also partially a myth. Who you know is more important than what you know. The world has more than its share of brilliant people that fall far, far from their true potential because they study away on incredible scholarly projects all by them self. At the same time, far less brilliant people rise to great heights merely on the connections they have. For example, Bill Gates was not the smartest computer person going. He was simply a smart computer mind with a plethora of connections.

But as much as who you know is important, the world also has more than its share of individuals that seemingly know lots of people but get very little from this network. How is this possible? Quite simply, it is more than who you know.

Effective networking is not just about knowing people. And it is so much more than making dozens of calls, posting on LinkedIn, and attending events. This is the simple reality: Effective networking is not just about connecting with and being connected to others. Effective networking is about having meaningful relationships with those you are connected with.

Success will not come from filling your database with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people. You will achieve success by creating relationships with a reasonable number of people. These can include centers of influences (such as, bankers, attorneys, accountants, outplacement professionals). These relationships could also be with existing professionals, which have a network of family, friends, and acquaintances that want a similar professional existence. These relationships could be with a wide variety of different types of people directly, indirectly, and even seemingly completely unrelated to what you do. Whatever the case, the important thing is that you have a solid RELATIONSHIP with them.

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Networking Works!

There is tremendous value in networking and networking adds value to you. Networking is much more than prospecting and selling. In general, it involves interacting with those around you (face-to-face, over the telephone, e-mail or text, and even using social media). Nevertheless, you engage in networking for the purpose of the people around you and at the same time position yourself to receive help.

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Networking Works!

Now it may not work HOW you would like it to work. For example, you go to a networking event hoping to meet accountants who might know of people interested in buying a franchise. To that end, nothing pans out, but you do learn of a job-transition group that you were not aware of. Networking did not work HOW you wanted, but it worked.

Networking may not work WHERE you want it to work. The next day standing in line to get coffee, you strike up a conversation with someone who reveals in polite conversation that they are looking for more freedom in their professional life. Networking did not work WHERE you wanted, but it worked.

Finally, networking may not work WHEN you want it to work. For example, again, you go to a networking event hoping to make contacts to help you find clients interested in franchising. You seem to come up empty. Then a month later, a year later, or even a decade or more later, someone reconnects with you from that event looking to be your client. Trust me, this happens. Again, Networking did not work WHEN you wanted, but it worked.

Networking Activities

Networking opportunities fall into three distinct categories: Face To Face … Electronic Encounters … and, Social Media.

business competition

Face To Face networking opportunities including, various activities when you are out and about with people. These include:

  • Structured Networking, including Toastmasters, Rotary, Lions’ Club, or organizations like AmSpirit Business Connections.
  • Networking Events, include trade shows, volunteer activities, business after-hours, Chamber events, seminars, and even social events like tailgates.
  • Free-Form Networking, includes perhaps a round of golf, meeting over a cup of coffee, just getting together.

With respect to networking in the modern age, much of what you can do face to face, you can accomplish via ELECTRONIC ENCOUNTERS. More specifically, you network over the telephone, over e-mail and through texting. Remember networking is more than selling and prospecting. It is two or more people working towards their mutual benefit – sharing referrals or contacts, passing on information, being encouraging and supportive.

Finally, in the 21st century, technological innovation has given way to social media websites. These are nothing more than virtual venues where you can network – again, share referrals or contacts, pass on information, being encouraging and supportive.

The main three social media applications are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, but beyond these are dozens and dozens of others. If used properly, social media will allow you to network on a massive scale, on a worldwide basis, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, and do so with incredible information about your networking partner before you even make contact.

Assessing Your Network Asset

Once you realize that your networking builds value in your life, the nature reaction is, “How much value do I have?”

Certainly, this is not as simple as counting nickels and dimes or tallying hours worked. And while there are complicated formulas for assessing one’s social capital, there are three rather simplistic means of gaining a thumbnail measurement of your social capital … assessing connectivity … density … or potential. Let’s touch on each of these.

Social Network of People

Assessment #1 is Connectivity. Answer this question “Who do I know?” Stop and think about it. Take an inventory of the people you know. High School. College. Neighbors. Community contacts. Church. The gym. And the list goes on and on. You likely know lots of people, and as you meet more your social capital grows.

Assessment #2 is Density. Think about it. If you knew ten people and those ten people all knew each other, your network is so dense (or interconnected) that the social capital is nowhere near as great as if you knew ten people and none of those people knew each other. So it is not just how many people you know that is important, but how many of those people know each other. Certainly, it is not reasonable to think that no one in your network knows anyone else, but you do want to have a broad, diverse network where you know lots of people and they are relatively disconnected from one another.

Assessment #3 is Potential. It is important how many people you know. And it is important how many of those people you know, know each other. But another means of assessing your network is to look through the people you know and see the people they know that you do not currently know. If you know ten people and they have relatively poor networks themselves, you are worse off than if you know only five people, but those five are extremely well connected.

Take a moment now and then to assess the value of your network. In these moments, ask yourself:

  • How can I increase my Connectivity;
  • How can I lessen my network Density; and
  • How can I enhance the Potential of my network

 

 

 

 

Your Networking Creates An Asset

Your life is comprised of various assets. There is physical capital such as money, investments, homes, cars and other belongings. There is human capital, such as your ability to work, think and do things. And there is social capital, which the invisible benefit that your network provides.

Know this, when you network, it is not an expense of your time. Do not think of it in those terms. Certainly some networking is more productive than others, but understand that any networking is an investment.

Prospecting: An Investment.

Attending An Event: An Investment.

Volunteering: An Investment.

Socializing: An Investment.

Think about networking as a component of building your personal wealth. When you network, you build value in your life. So get out and network. As you do, feel as if your net worth is growing… because it is.

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