Networking and Relationship Building
Effective Networking and Relationship Building
To some, networking means no more than just meeting or calling someone new for what might or might 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 Effective Networking
In practice, networking has a much wider definition and in fact, can be a major social and life skill to be used in both a business/organizational and/or a personal setting. In taking the wider view, the resultant 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 and active link to a large and active network of people is a vast resource available to every individual at a very low personal cost, which can help a person to achieve a range of goals that otherwise might be too hard or out of reach. Alert readers will have noticed that we said “low” personal cost not “no” personal cost. Networking is not a quick fix or ‘fad’ idea that can be easily adopted to make things better for a while. However, it can provide immediate results for those people who are prepared to invest their time and energy (and perhaps overcome some initial personal concerns).
In practice, it is useful to note that there tends to be four distinctive ‘types’ when it comes to trying to network or to build relationships with others. These are: the Loner, the Socializer, the User and the Relationship Builder or Networker. Let’s look briefly at each of these.
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 to ask others for help. The loner will not usually seek to 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 (especially relative strangers).
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 also typically a random networker, following little or no formal contact system. Ultimately, the socializer likes people but also very much wants to be liked by others (and therefore does not want to ask for favors).
Unfortunately, this type may well network widely but in a way which creates little benefit for themselves or others. Even worse, this kind 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.”
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 (or knows someone that can possibly assist).
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, thinking about what you can give rather than get and by building your personal network one person at a time (whether you are doing this on a face-to-face basis or even online). And finally, to help “anchor” what networking should be all about; here are a few more useful definitions about the practice.
“A power that comes from a spirit of giving and sharing”
“Establishing connections that are mutually satisfactory”
“A willingness to honor ourselves, our relationships and our connections with the universal flow”
“Giving, contributing to and supporting others without keeping score”
“Ensuring the right to ask a favor-giving without hooks”