The Good Samaritan principal applies to networking. It’s about adding value, helping people in your network with no expectation of anything in return. Networking well is hard work with no certainty of reward. In fact you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince/ess.
If you create value for others, your social capital increases – you empower yourself through connecting and giving. There are always things you can do for other people, spend time finding out about the needs of others – talk about them not you. And don’t just ask questions, do something to earn gratitude.
In business terms your network is made up of four main categories of people – colleagues, clients, suppliers, professional peers. When you are job hunting you need a minimum of 250 people in your network. You should aim for an overall network of 350 people who constantly feed information through to you and to whom you respond with information that is useful to them.
So create time to network inside and outside of your organisation. Give it at least two hours a week, one networking meeting inside and one outside and typically do that at lunch or over coffee. And remember when you are meeting people you are collecting data which you need to record systematically as you won’t be able to recall those all important personal details otherwise. Build a CRM database. People feel valued if you can recall something about them which is important to them, such as their wife’s name, their occupation, something special about their children, etc. It makes them feel important, as if they matter to you.
The idea of networking is to approach people you know or who are known to people you know, for help and advice. Every time you make a new helpful contact you then tap into their network and get introductions to a new range of contacts. Gradually you build up a large list of people who can help you.
Network, network, network. Effective networking requires effort, organisation and a certain amount of courage. People who are really successful at networking are well connected, both inside and outside the organisation. The people skills you develop through networking are essential as you move into more senior positions and will give you a competitive advantage over the course of your career.
But share, don’t be a one-way networker. Don’t be a user, who only makes contact when you need something from someone. The key to good networking is doing things for others. That way you’ll be in credit when you need an introduction or information.
Michael Moran is CEO and Founder of 10 Eighty a career and talent management consultancy