Putting the pieces into place-The challenge of Networking

Networking is one of my favorite topics and and it is also one of the areas where I spend a lot of my time and effort.  Networking is an essential practice for all business leaders and I give credit to our success, or failure, as a business based on our ability to network with the right people in the right place at the appropriate time.

Earlier in my life I was a compulsive puzzle person and I still enjoy a good puzzle now and then.  I remember well the day when our children were younger when I would set up a large puzzle on a table and we would all work on this together.  I have also been prone to work on a crossword puzzle or two and Sudoku is an interesting puzzle pastime that I also enjoy.

With most puzzles like those listed above you can have a very clear picture of the intended result prior to beginning the process.  Every jigsaw puzzle includes a photo of the finished scene and crossword puzzles are either “right or wrong” when you finish, with Sudoku being the same.  Networking puzzles are not like this and that is an important distinction to remember when you start out on your networking path.  You may have a specific target or outcome in mind when you begin a networking process, but you also need to understand how to flex or redirect your efforts when the next piece of the puzzle is something you did not expect.  I will say more about how to do this below and in a future post.

I got started in the Talent Acquisition and Talent Development world about 9 years ago and I have the good fortune to have some great mentors who helped me with the strategy of how to get started.  Some of the early thoughts I had included the following:

  • Who do I know?
  • What services might I provide for them?
  • What is the probability that they would consider me credible to provide this service for their firm?

These three variables helped me generate the initial map for concentrating my efforts in building the business.  I started with those I knew and with things I also had credibility in providing.  In the puzzle nomenclature I started with a clear picture in my mind of the who, what and how before I ever stepped foot outside the door. 

Life changed that picture in many ways and here are just a few of these detours and dead ends:

  • Firms already had a good source for the services I provided
  • Our method of providing services (retained search) was not the method they chose to employ (they used contingency search)
  • There was no need for Talent Development at the time I called upon them

These items could be a huge chasm to some, but they only allowed me to re-craft the final picture.  The key thing I always try to remember about networking is that there is always a value I can provide and be provided when I meet with someone else.  People are like onions, meaning that they have many layers of influence.  What you see on the surface is not the only thing to consider.  Just because someone does not appear to have the connection or influence you first think, people have many other layers of connectivity when you get past the first layer.  Here are a few examples of what I mean from personal experience:

  • One of our newest clients was referred to us by someone who knew of our work in the area-many of our clients come from referrals; the moral here is that you never know when you are “interviewing” for your next role, so always do your best, no matter the circumstances
  • Clients come from places you would never imagine; I have had clients come from LinkedIn, church and many other activities I currently or formerly participated in
  • I spend a lot of time in the industries where we do work; being connected to leaders in the areas we focus on helps to give us credibility and it also shows we are wiling to give back to the professions we serve

I’ll stop here today and pick up next week with some more ideas about how you might complete some of the networking puzzles you might be working one.

Always check the floor, you never know when an important piece may have slipped out of view.