Networking? Yes! but…

May 11, 2009

It is everywhere and on everyone’s lips: networking. The panacea for success!
Last week, I could read an article on CNBC hinting toward a different look at networking. According to the writer of the article, networking and spraying business cards all over the place might have you appear a loser, eventually.
Like everyone else, I have networked and I still do, but I have also changed my views on the topic. I do not believe that networking as such is a bad thing, but just like any other “strategic” activity, it needs to be carried out with a clear plan.
There are lots of networking venues and formats, being in the physical world or being online. Therefore, you are not short of possibilities.
The main problem I see is that the cheapest and the most open to the largest number, the lower the efficiency of your networking. This, in my view, happens for a simple reason: all the people looking for help join these venues.
For instance, I am on LinkedIn. Great system as such. However, I got invites out of the blue from people whom I do not know, who do not introduce themselves, who do not seem to have the slightest interest in knowing who I am and what I do. All I receive is a spam email asking me to join their network or some unknown group, in which most of the time nothing ever happens. Surely, I will be able to show off, claiming that I have 10,000 contacts, out of which probably 9,997 will be absolutely of no help. Of course, this is not appealing for me, and most of such requests end up in the archive file!
Therefore, with such mass networking, you end up meeting mostly people who cannot help you, as they are already so busy keeping their heads out of the water. But, of course, maybe over a few years from now, and if they remember you out of the thousands of other unknown contacts that they have met, it will benefit you.
Although research shows that we all are connected within 6 degrees of separation, the best and most reliable contacts we have are our first degree ones. They are the ones that can recommend us or introduce us to the second degree. Generally, second degree contacts will be willing to get to know you, as they will trust what our common contact tells them. In my opinion, this is the best way to start developing a network. Go one degree at a time!
Another efficient way to get to know the “right” people is to network within your profession and/or your hobbies circles. People who share similar interests will be more open to expand their contact list.
If you are in a hurry to get help, get the help where it really is: with people and organizations that actually help others, not with the ones who just organize venues where you are left at your own devices with the wrong crowd.
If you are looking for a job, get in touch with people who actually are involved in job seeking (and finding for this matter)!
If you want yourself and your talent to be noticed, you need to do more than distributing business cards and sending dull invites. You must make some impact. Do something that people will notice and, most of all, will remember. This way, you will have demonstrated what you can offer to others and to organizations.
Your networking will be more successful by helping others, than by hoping that others will help you.

Copyright 2009 The Happy Future Group Consulting Ltd.

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