Networking made easy…

For those of you who want to look forward to better days, I would like to suggest that you examine your current networking activity.

You are doing something wrong if you look forward to networking with grim determination, feel frustrated after a networking session, and are not seeing people a second time.

Any of these are signs that you view networking as selling yourself or getting something from others. That is a total waste of those unique moments in time when you have the attention of someone else.

I realize that countless books have been written on how to win
friends and influence people using various canned scripts, but I humbly
suggest that those books are full of nonsense.

When you manage to meet someone and gain their attention for the
first time, you have an opportunity to leave a lasting impression on
them that they will carry away and will maintain for years.

Why must you insist on coming across as an annoyance or as a
distraction? Your golden opportunity is transformed into a blot on the
other person’s universe which he or she will handle by labelling you as
someone to avoid in the future.

If you don’t know the person who is now paying attention to you,
introduce yourself very briefly and immediately ask about them, what
brings them here, what they do for a living, it doesn’t matter what the
question is, but it must be based on your actual interest in them. If your interest is genuine and your manners are in, you can even ask questions that might seem overly personal if handled crudely.

People are willing to talk with someone who is interested in them
for the right reasons. If you are genuinely interested in someone, you
can ask them almost anything and you will get a response.

If you already know something about the person who is paying
attention to you, you can mention something favorable about them or
what they have done instead of asking them a question.

Once you have made your statement or asked your question, shut up
and let the other person talk. This will tell you whether to continue
the conversation or to thank them and walk away.

Maybe there is nothing more to say. Ending an initial contact
smoothly leaves the door open to a later meeting where you have more in
common.

If you are genuinely interested in the other person, as in wanting
to help them out or make them feel more comfortable, they will pick
that up and remember you fondly and possibly with some affection. It
takes very little time to form a bond with someone if you are
interested in their welfare and making them feel comfortable.

If you force yourself to communicate with people you don’t like for
the purpose of networking, you have missed the whole point of this
activity. Networking is the process of extending your network of friends. It is not a matter of running around passing out business cards.

More later.

Have a good weekend!

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0 Responses to Networking made easy…

  1. Sean Pecor says:

    I recommend reading Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (http://www.gladwell.com/tippingpoint/index.html). It’s a jaw dropping look at how humans interact within the context of their personal life and their businesses. Malcolm proposes three rare and gifted personality types of successful people: Connectors, Mavens and Salesman. Connectors collect friends and business contacts. Chances are they know who to put you in touch with. Mavens collect and spread knowledge and product manufacturers cater to this 1% of their customer base because pissing them off would spread bad PR like a virus. Salesman influence decisions in dramatic ways. It’s a really fun read.

  2. zoom says:

    How to Win Friends and Influence People
    By David St Lawrence

    err… by Dale Carnegie…

    Hmmm… by David St Carnegie…

    I’m just kidding… πŸ™‚

  3. reinkefj says:

    “Networking is the process of extending your network of friends.”

    Nah, I don’t like that definition at all.

    I do agree that it’s not passing out business cards. It’s also NOT collecting a lot of them either.

    Any more than doing the LinkedIn version of the Vulcan mind meld with a grazillion people is networking.

    I would define “networking” differently.

    IMHO

    Networking is an ongoing conversation between two people for the purpose of exchanging information about mutually agreed topics. It’s characterized by the personal meetings or at least communications as needed.

    There’s an implied agreement that each participant is responsible for what they get out of it. There are no guarantees or warranties. It’s a best effort.

    There are certain unwritten rules. The initiator is not allowed to ask for a job, a loan, or an excessive amount of time. The receptor is obligated to give full attention, honest feedback, and follow through on anything promised.

    When a face to face networking meeting occurs, I believe it is best when it is very scripted and short (less than 30 minutes). The initiator is expected to have familiarized themselves with the public persona of the receptor. The receptor is expected to have reviewed any documentation that the initiator has supplied in advance. After hello, the initiator asks the receptor to explain their current scope (5 minutes). The receptor then asks the initiator to describe what they are looking for and their unique value proposition. The initiator gives their long version of their elevator speech (5 minutes). The receptor then comments upon it (5 minutes). The initiator is then expected to ask two or three questions (5 minutes). Then the initiator concludes by asking for the names of two people who could help him, thanks the receptor for his time, and leaves. Thirty minutes tops UNLESS the receptor extend it.

    There maybe a perceived disparity between the two people in organizational stature, education level, age, or experience (i.e., overall work history; industry focused; skills). Whether a greater or lesser, everyone wins in networking. At the very least, even if there is nothing that one person could possibly do (e.g., a new college accounting graduate networking with an old F500 cfo), there is the psychological benefit from helping. Or, perhaps the greater is “paying back ghosts” (i.e., releasing self-imposed obligations for past help received when there was a similar disparity). Those “ghosts” provided help to the now greater, who was the lesser then, and couldn’t reciprocate. That kind of help comes with its own obligation that an individual carries in their soul. Like a karmic debt, it needs to be discharged. Also, the lesser can help the greater improve on their thinking, mental models, or coaching skills without recognizing it. The benefits to the greater are not always obvious even to the greater person. The lesser isn’t imposing on the greater because there was mutual agreement to meet.

    So if we think about the model of data, information (data in context), knowledge (actionable information), and wisdom (understanding the nuances of knowledge), the networking parties operate on any, or all, of the four levels. It can result in the exchanging, sharing, or developing new insights to their mutual or individual benefits.

    Networking is that ongoing conversation inside a personal relationship between two individuals to their mutual benefit.

    IMHO

    (Thanks for a nice challege to my thinking!)
    http://reinkefj.wordpress.com/2006/06/03/turkey-what-is-networking/

  4. That’s a great exposition of the old “business card” type of networking that has been around since the fifties. Not much fun and not necessarily very productive – unless there is a real effort to create a live relationship.

    That’s why I cut to the chase and dealt with the real aspect of networking which is developing friendships and extending them.

    The business cards, the suits, the arranged and orchestrated meeting don’t mean a thing unless there is genuine interest.

    If you noticed, I was writing about the first meeting. If that goes well, the arranged meeting which follows will go well also.

    Why bother networking if it doesn’t extend your network of friends?

  5. reinkefj says:

    On this chilly morning as I sit and reflectively blog, I’d pontificate that “networking” is very different than “friendship”.

    As an injineer that has to have a taxonomy for everything, one has: spouses (high value / low maintenance if you pick right),relatives (thankfully not a greatly expanding number requiring loans, gifts, and high maintenance / low return); in laws (enough said); friends (great joys); acquaintances (casual contact); fellow bloggers (who tell you that your full of soup as needed); coworkers (limited to the lifespan of your corporate life); and service people (usually nice people you meet along the way who do stuff for you). There’s a formula for everything. And, we take two parts of this and one part of that to make shazaam.

    [Note the careful attention to the engineering rule of thumb five plus or minus two. (1) spouses; (2) relatives; (3) in laws; (4) friends; (5) acquaintances; (6) fellow bloggers; (7); coworkers; (8)service people. Oops! Ok combine relatives and in laws! And it now fits the rule. As I was saying: Note the careful attention to the engineering rule of thumb five plus or minus two. (1) spouses; (2) relatives and in laws; (3) friends; (4) acquaintances; (5) fellow bloggers; (6) coworkers; (7)service people. ANd injineer can always make the observed data fit the predetermined answer. Why do you think tuition is higher, the math is harder, and the wages better.]

    Seriously, maybe networking contacts can become friends and acquaintances. Maybe that is what one needs to do. Convert the business of networking into “making friends and influencing people”. I’m not so sure. But I’ll take it under advisement. Till then, networking contacts don’t fit into my paradigm cause it breaks the rule of five.

    Maybe I need some new rules?

    [FOOTNOTE: The rule of five says that people don’t understand or remember things that are fewer than 3 (insufficient distinctions) and greater than 7 (too many choices). So engineers always try to ensure that stuff conforms to that rule. Next week’s lesson: Why bridges don’t usually fail or multiplying the right answer by ten just to be safe! That’s why you don’t have to worry about following a 9.5 ton truck on a one ton bridge … usually]

  6. Sean Pecor says:

    I think that in many cases a gifted networker establishes friendship and kinship first with professional peers, and business opportunities are borne from that friendship. I think this is especially true the more successful a person gets. The more successful, the less one stands to gain from someone else economically, and the more they stand to gain from you. At this point, the financially successful “networker” quite naturally provides opportunities to the people that he genuinely _likes_ or is motivated by an obligation to support based on a kind of kinship (attends the same church, each has children in the same school and grade, both members of an enthusiasts club, etc). As owner of web sites with over 70,000 vendors registered I can’t tell you how many LinkedIn requests I get every day from people I don’t even know. That sort of networking contact is useless. Almost as useless is the networker at a business mixer who robotically hands out business cards, goes on and on about their professional life, yet is silent regarding their personal life, interests or ambitions. In that scenario, I’ll be friendly, take the card, and later simply dispose of it.

    reinkefj mentiones the Rule of 5. I’m not familiar with that, although I have heard of the Rule of Threes which can be an argument for making friends now to influence people later πŸ˜‰ Anyways, humans overcome that sort of Rule of 5 by mental grouping. That’s how we can so easily remember so many long distance phone numbers containing 11 digits. Or our own social security number. Therefore, I would combine spouses, children, relatives and in laws to Kin. I would combine friends, acquaintances, fellow bloggers, coworkers, and service people to Friends. Now the intensity of friendship will vary among coworkers, friends and acquaintenances, but to me I think of all of them as friends. Just like the intensity of kinship varies among your Kin. And of course, what better to have close Friends whom are also close Kin, especially for those moments when you have to move, or move a body πŸ˜‰

    Sean

  7. David Opton says:

    David,

    We have been trying to help executives learn the lessons of appropriate networking for more than 18 years. Some get it, and some don’t, but we keep working at it.

    Aside from my own personal experience after some 40+ years in the working world, the feedback that we get from our “landed” members who who contact us is that 70% say that the next gig came as the result of networking.

    My guess would be that we probably spend more time trying to provide the knowledge and tools on this subject than anything else.

  8. “Networking” should never used in the same context as “friends.” It suggests using friends to further personal goals and I find that concept deceptive and disgusting. “Networking” is just another buzzword for using contacts to get ahead. Friendships should be worth far more.

  9. It’s all in how you define terms – and what your life experience has lead you to believe the word means.

    According to dictionary.com, the term networking means:

    Networking – v. intr.

    To interact or engage in informal communication with others for mutual assistance or support.

    (That sounds like friends working with friends to me. I’ll keep on using the term in that sense. )

  10. Sean Pecor says:

    I agree with Doug that if you’re simply acquiring Friends to further your personal goals then that is indeed disgusting. However, in my case, I don’t look to further my own personal or financial goals when I’m making Friends. I’m just making Friends, and then somehow, sometimes, business or personal opportunities present themselves.

    Networking isn’t a buzzword, the damn word has been around for ages. It’s got gray hair by now. It’s not young and sexy enough to be a buzzword πŸ˜‰

    Sean

  11. Perspective says:

    I’ve never been a very good “connector” (as Gladwell uses the term in Tipping Point).

    I remember a cartoon or something several years back describing “turbo networking” as “glad to meet you, what’s in it for me?” Way too many people selling and networking that way today. Yuk!

  12. Politics depends heavily on networking and I’ve found that anything that has an active application in political circles is, by association, suspect.

    My primary concern still lies with those who intermix social contact and networking. As one who has been networked one time too many by a “friend,” I’m left with a sour taste from the experience. But perhaps that is just me. I just don’t like being a means to a goal — especially when that goal is reached by playing on a friendship.

  13. Sean Pecor says:

    I hear you Doug. I don’t like that sort of business networking by proxy, where the proxy is the friend and the business “opportunity” is a friend of your friend. I’m trying to describe how my friendships turn into more personal business networking relationships but I’m not doing a very good job of it. I’ll try an example. Last year my wife and I took a trip to Holland to shop for a horse. It was a group shopping trip, organized by Steven Wolgemuth from Graemont Farm in PA. Each buyer had their own separate itinerary. Steven and I got along well on the trip, we became friends, and we’ve been involved in some business projects together since then. So what began as a business/client relationship in one market, evolved into a personal friendship and then we worked as associates on some internet projects. In a relationship like this, both parties reference their own “network” as needed, bringing in additional people with specialized skills onto a project. That’s the sort of networking that is the most emotionally and economically rewarding to me. Being an internet geek, maybe it would best be called Star Ring Networking πŸ˜‰

    Sean

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