There is always a connection-the value of Networking

I know what you are thinking.  You see the title to this piece and say to yourself, “I cannot stomach one more post about networking.”  For those of you in the job search mode, it may appear all you ever hear is the value of networking.  For those who own businesses, you hear much the same thing.  Let me just say this, no matter how tired you may become of networking, the value is always there and there is always a connection.  Let me share just a few anecdotal stories today to help emphasize that point.

I have to add a small bit of humor on networking before we go much further.  A few years ago I spent much of my time talking with groups about networking, especially the value of using social networks.  During that period I coined a phrase that my sons used to tease me often; “Sometimes networking can be not-working”.  This is especially true when you use networks like Facebook, but we will not spend much time there today.

I recently had lunch with an individual that I had met while prospecting for candidates in a search we were conducting.  While this individual did not end up being a candidate we presented to our client, they did hold promise for future opportunities so we decided to meet and talk.  During the course of the conversation we discovered that I knew this person’s spouse through a totally different segment of my life.  Little things like this occur all of the time if you just spend the time getting to know people.

A second situation occurred a few months ago while my wife and I were returning from a trip to Florida.  While flying back we sat next to the coach of a local university golf team.  We ended up having a great conversation and learned that we all attended the same church.  Ironically, I saw this person and his family the next week while attending church.  Had we not spent the time getting to know this person we would have never made the secondary connection, and there is always another connection.

It is my belief that the part of networking that scares most people is the initial contact.  You reach out to someone who you don’t know.  They probably do not know you either.  Many times I hear people say that they feel like they are “begging for something” when they network. 

When I hear this it helps me understand that they are only networking “half way”.  Networking is a two way street and you need to have something to offer as well as have a need.  You may even meet with someone, knowing that you have no need, but you are at least willing to hear what they might have to offer or what gap you might fill for them.

As I draw this to a close today, let me share a few pointers I feel are essential when you prepare and engage in networking.  This list may not be all inclusive, but it will certainly be a good start as you get started:

  • Be willing to help as well as asking for help
  • Do your homework; know something about the person you are meeting with
  • Always ask them what you might provide
  • Do not be afraid to ask for their assistance; most people are more than willing to help you
  • Don’t push too hard, too soon
  • Just getting to know someone is a good thing
  • Listening is a gift; we all like to have someone listen to us
  • Know your message and have it fine tuned; be specific and to the point
  • Don’t take too much of their time, but also don’t rush them
  • Sometimes being in the right place is just as important as talking to the right person
  • Always send a hand-written thank you note

I hope this will be a good reminder of the value of your time and your effort.  A good network is somewhat like a brick wall.  Each conversation, each relationship, is like one more brick in the wall and the follow up and enthusiasm you show acts like the mortar to hold them together.  If you don’t smile, listen and engage, the bricks will not hold together and your wall will come crashing down at some inopportune time.

Go forth and build!