Let me lend a different lens to your network – It is your number one resource for learning and professional development. How is yours?
I found myself in several conversations with people over the past month who were lamenting the pain and anguish of networking. Many were struggling to make the commitment to networking as part of their search for work. I have spent the last decade speaking to groups about the importance of building relationships – and that conversation generally leads back to networking. I know it is hard, and I also know it is probably easier for me because of how I am wired.
4 Fallacies of Networking
- Networking is a lot of work – I shared my monthly goal for networking events last week and the group was surprised. My goal = 2 per month. What counts is any gathering of a group of people and my goal is simple, meet one or two people that I will follow-up with a written note. That is it. My goal is not quantity, just quality. Chamber of Commerce events count, but so does a Booster Board meeting or high school sporting event. If I do this consistently for a year it results in (at a minimum): 24 events, 48 written notes, and roughly 12-15 follow-up cups of coffee.
- Networking is an event – I have a goal of 2 events, but that is not really the end, it is just a piece of it. Networking is a mindset. Here is how I view networking based on my beliefs:
- I believe that hearing the stories of others is important.
- I believe that it is important to find other people that share my passions/goals, and the only way to do that is to hear stories and share my story.
- I believe that the end point of getting to know others is a relationship that will continue into the future.
- I believe in the importance of building relationships.
- Networking is inclusive – LinkedIn is a main way I keep track of my network. I made a decision to kick all LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networker) out of my network. I want people in my network that are active, positive, and people with which I have a professional connection/opinion. That does not include everyone, and not letting someone in my network does not mean that they are bad, it just means they don’t fit my network. I also have a habit where I review my LinkedIn connections once or twice a year and take people out of my network. I look through and if I do not recognize or remember them I delete them. I also delete people that post daily or mainly sell with their posts.
- Networking is Kissing Up to people you don’t like – I love this one, because it is generally from people who are looking for reasons not to do it. If the goals of networking are to get to know others, have others get to know you, and learn things through connections/conversations, then you will have to talk to people that you would not invite to dinner. An important part of networking is always being open to listen and learn, regardless of the source. From my perspective, networking is about learning, and if it is done correctly you meet new people, build some great relationships, and you learn lots of new things.
I attended an event earlier this year with someone I had not seen in a while, and they gave me feedback that it seemed like I knew everyone. The reality, I knew about 20 people of the 800 people that attended the event, and most I had met since starting my business. Remember my goal? In 5 years my networking effort adds up to roughly 120 events, 240 written notes, and 50-75 cups of coffee.
I know networking is hard. There are events I go to that I do not have the energy for and end up leaving early. I also miss events because I have other commitments as a husband or father that are more important. Networking does not have to be your top priority, but it does have to be a priority if you are looking to grow professionally and have a positive impact on your community.