Networking

Networking is an important part of building relationships both inside and outside organisations. The principles of networking revolve around 3 concepts

i) law of giving without expectation (unconditionally helping someone to achieve their goal and not expecting something in return)

ii) law of abundance (firmly believing that there are ample opportunities for everyone, and the art of networking is knowing where these opportunities are)

iii) law of reciprocity (when you give without conditions, you receive payback many times over)

NB It is about who you know, more than what you know

Networking is an important part of career development. To succeed in the organisational hierarchy, operational excellence is not enough. You need to be able to build relationships both inside and outside the organisation, especially with people above you in the hierarchy. Furthermore, it is a claimed that only 12 to 15 percent of senior level jobs come from recruitment agencies, with the rest coming from your network, ie family, friends, social acquaintances, contact-of-contacts, etc.

Networking can be an important way to find jobs. Research has shown (Fiona Smith, 2009c) that 17% percent of people learned about their jobs from a close friend; 28% from someone that they barely knew; 56% from an acquaintance. This was explained by close friends having similar networks, while acquaintances are more likely to have different networks but know you well enough to be helpful.

Effective networking is about creating mutual obligations between people. It follows some basic rules:

- be prepared to "work the room" (being prepared to talk to strangers, ie forget childhood advice of not talking to strangers!!!!!!!)

- learn not to be intimidated by people who are perceived as senior

- focus on the person you are talking to

- be an active listener

- be confident, ie pretend that you are the host!!!!!!!!

- prepare a few questions and conversation starters

"...Networking is about building a chain of helpfulness, not just collecting business cards. It requires time and sincerity. Networking isn't about selling. It is about building rapport and being remembered for all the right reasons......it is a long-term strategy......try to make memorable connections......look sharp and listen......listen to what someone is telling you and reaffirm what they say by repeating something back to them. Ask questions and don't look over their shoulders for someone better to talk to. Networks are interconnected and you don't know who that person knows..."

Brad Hatch, 2006a

Networking tips

- identify the people you want to network with and get the background material on them via the Internet prior to meeting them

- prepare a self-introduction of around 15 seconds

- when you first arrive, scan the room to locate any strategic contacts

- position your name tag on your right side, so that when people shake your hand they automatically look at the extended arm and notice the name tag

- make eye contact and do not look elsewhere while talking to particular individual

- approach new people in the room rather than going to familiar faces

- don't be afraid to politely end a conversation, especially if the conversation is not going well or you find that you have no natural rapport; politely excuse yourself by saying something like "It's been a pleasure to talk with you" and move on

- useful strategy for constructively ending a conversation is to introduce the person to somebody else in the room

- ask questions about others' problems and concerns, history and background. If convenient, ask how you can help them

- listen, express approval and agreement, ie adjust your behaviour to the situation. It is better to listen to people and ask them questions about themselves. You will be more interesting to a person if you are interested in what they are saying.

- don't force yourself on people, ie it is better for somebody to ask for your business card than for you to hand it out regardless

- it is better to have 1 or 2 quality conversations at an event, rather than superficially "work the room"

- be willing to refer contacts even when you don't think your referral will be reciprocated

- if somebody helps you, follow up your conversation with a short note or phone call for expressing your appreciation

- for any relationship to last, you have to establish mutual trust first. You can tell when you have connected with someone, so don't push it if there's no connection

- if you do establish a rapport with someone at an event, follow up with an e-mail and suggest catching up in a social context.

NB If you build a solid friendship first by finding a shared or mutual interest, then helping each other comes naturally (this is what networking is all about)

Networking is a way of sharing wisdom and building bonds; it is not just a selling and buying process. It is about people discussing ideas, interacting and learning. On the other hand, be careful of

- working the crowd too fiercely and thus alienating potential contacts

- cornering someone who doesn't want to be cornered

- sticking to the same conversation, ie being a bore!!!!!!!

- situations where someone gets drunk, aggressive and/or inappropriately amorous

Critical success factors of networking include

- Broad range of stakeholders (internal and external to the organisation and across a range of functions)
- Depth (include stakeholders at all levels in the hierarchy)
- Established (based on trust, authenticity, reciprocity and transparency)
. Building a network takes time and energy and must be genuine
. Some questions relevant to networks - Do you know how effective your network is?
- Does your network help or hinder your ability to lead and implement?
- What can you do to enhance your network?

10 ways to boost your network effectiveness
i) regularly evaluate your network, ie who is in it and how effective is it? Identify any gaps and where there are blockages, ie people with whom it's hard to get things done
ii) prioritise your time and energy, eg strike the right balance between people who are asking for something and people who you help. Remember: the more you share, the more you will gain over time
iii) be consistent and keep your commitments, eg if you state you will do something, do it (this is essential for building trusting relationships)
iv) be careful of groupthink (include people in your network with different opinions who will challenge your thinking and mindset; your network needs to have character and depth. The more broader your understanding, the greater your ability to think issues through and to take on different perspectives and manage complex situations
v) help other people to build their networks (find out who they collaborate with and how effective is it for them, and potentially for you)
vi) know the connectors and influencers in your network, eg know who get things done and how they do it
vii) reward and encourage people who engage in healthy and effective behaviours, eg collaboration, facilitation, etc
viii) integrate new people into your network by introducing them to key people and how your network works sharing information, expertise and support
ix) encourage facilitation/collaboration behaviours across business units, geographical boundaries, etc
x) build your network based on integrity, transparency, etc, and this enhances your credibility
(source: Michelle Gibbings, 2015)

  • In summary

"...in a conversation don't be demure, don't be wallpaper, don't be vanilla. Have a clear belief, because for every person you annoy, you will excite someone else......networking is the first frontier of personal branding......you should be unafraid to give your view, then ask others for theirs. Even if your opinion isn't popular, if it's well thought out and makes me think differently, that will create a good impression......networking is all about the art of conversation and reading people......don't overstay you welcome - if there's no natural flow of conversation......move on..."politely

Simon Hammond as quoted by Marion Edmonds, 2009

Furthermore, you need to decide on your unique selling proposition

"...but keep it simple, and allow them to ask questions, and this will lead into further conversations......she aims to meet 2 people she doesn't know......the etiquette of business cards is important......look at the card, make an observation about the card you are given...... many people make the basic mistake of not taking cards..."

Kylie Green as quoted by Marion Edmonds, 2009

Generally business cards should come out later rather than earlier in the meeting. Remember, it is more about concentrating on meaningful conversations and relationship building than harvesting business cards.

You need to be good listener as everyone loves to be listened to!!!!!

 

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