Effective Networking is more about “How can I help?” and not “What can I get?” JON WARNER To some, networking means no more than just meeting or calling someone new for what may or may not be a once-off discussion or event. In this limited sense, networking is only a “trading” relationship in which two parties seek to discover whether they have anything of mutual interest to talk about, and either make some sort of ‘exchange’ or quickly move on. This makes networking a highly ‘transactional’ subject, much like buying and selling or negotiating with someone. Benefits of Networking In practice, networking has a much wider definition and can be a major life skill to be used in both a business or a personal setting. In this wider view, the benefits of effective networking are many. Some of these are: ▘ It is perhaps the most cost effective marketing tool available. ▘ Networking referrals will typically generate 80% more results than a cold call. ▘ 70-80% of all jobs are found through networking. ▘ Every person you meet has 200-250 people with whom they connect that can potentially assist you. ▘ Anyone that you might want to meet or contact in the world is only five to six people contacts away from you. As if these reasons were not enough, a healthy, active link to a large network of people is a vast resource available at a low personal cost, which can help a person to achieve a range of goals that otherwise might be out of reach. Networking is not a quick fix or fad that can be easily adopted to make things better for a while. However, it can provide immediate results for those who invest their time and energy (and possibily overcome some initial personal concerns). Networking Types There tends to be four distinctive ‘types’ when it comes to networking or to building relationships with others. These are: the Loner, the Socializer, the User and the Relationship Builder or Networker. THE LONER The loner is an easily recognizable type, because there are times when we all believe that many (if not most jobs) are better done ourselves rather than asking others for help. The bother anyone else, or necessarily see much point in networking, in terms of the often slow speed or quality that others can offer them. Unfortunately, the loner attitude is a major obstacle to effective networking and we need to shift our thinking heavily away from thinking that we can operate alone or do every task ourselves, and become more willing to let others assist, and even ask for help more often. Ultimately, the loner believes in him or herself, but not necessarily in others. THE SOCIALIZE R Although the socializer may have a wide circle of friends and contacts (and therefore believes they are good networkers), they may know little of substance about each of their contact’s skills, knowledge and resources and has a low capacity to “leverage” their wide contact base. The socializer is typically a random networker, following little or no formal contact system. Ultimately, the socializer likes people but very much wants to be liked by others (and therefore does not want to ask for favors). THE USER Unfortunately, this type may well network widely but in a way which creates little benefit for themselves or others. Even worse, this type of networker tends to create a bad impression on others and therefore can give networking an image of being about selling, taking, bargaining and keeping score. There is far too much user-led networking, which takes the view that it is all about “what I can get.” Ultimately, the user takes a relatively selfish view of “If I benefit or gain, I might reciprocate, otherwise I won’t.” THE BUILDER This type of networker is what we should all ideally aspire to be—an individual who takes a long-term perspective on their relationship with others and thinks about what they can give or offer to others much more than what they can get. This type is ‘out there’ for others or “at call” to offer his or her help whenever it is needed possibly assist). Summary Except for the Builder, all of the others types fear either rejection, obligation, being overly pushy or even looking weak (or even all four of these things). All of these fears or concerns about networking can be lessened or overcome by starting slowly. Think about what you can give rather than what you can get by building your personal network one person at a time—whether you are doing this on a face-to-face basis or even online.