|Photo by Ani Kolleshi, Unsplash|
Networking Strategies Vol. 2
Networking is one of those general terms that may go misunderstood by individuals. I believe it extends a little further than the definition of just “acquiring contacts”. If we think of it in this way though, it is far better than thinking that it is something that it is not. It has been important in my journey to grow my network that I think of the network as being “mutual contacts with purpose”. I believe this definition could serve everyone better for several reasons.
Understanding mutual contacts with purpose requires us to avoid mass-friending and following others on social media. I believe that defining networking in this way gives us substance to what we are looking for when we refer to the purpose, as well as gives a mutually beneficial relationship with the contact by understanding that you cannot be networked with another without them also being networked with you.
A problem that I have encountered enough to define it as a problem is the act of prematurely pitching your idea to a potential network connection. This almost always fails in successfully securing another member of your larger team or network because, even if they were on your network, they may not vibe with your current idea. It is important that we don’t go looking for network connections for professional or even personal use by trying to lure them in with a current pitch or idea. This is exceptionally important from the entrepreneur’s point of view primarily because when you are salivating over an entrepreneurial idea, this is a natural tendency.
The network member relationship must mutually exist between two parties before any ideas, pitches, or opportunities can be presented. This has been a showstopper for me. I get all wound up about a recent idea that I have been building on, go to grow my network, cant stop thinking about network applications to this idea, and end up just delivering the idea to someone I am trying to add to my professional network. Chances are the individual that I’m speaking to thinks that I’m a kook and likens me to a door-to-door amateur vacuum salesman or trying to sell him a life insurance policy via a cold call.
It is important to deliver your interest in creating a network member relationship during that first conversation and avoid discussing business. I would also argue that it takes some reinforcement of that relationship further before discussing profession business especially as it applies to entrepreneurial ventures or opportunities. From the receiving point of a view, if you are trying to sell an entrepreneurial journey cold, the individual on the receiving end of this conversation would probably think that you are very desperate and if you indeed have a following that you have acquired through your methods, you are probably created a cult instead of an organization.
Network Member Relationship Theory
I like this idea just because it so very well meshes with principles of leadership and team building. The meat of this meal hovers around individual relationships with members of your network. It is the difference between a cold call and a warm call from a salesman’s perspective. This is a theory that describes the process of initially contact a potential future contact, gaining rapport by building a simple relationship, growing that relationship, and then having an integrated network-member that is more likely to actually hear any ideas that you have. This is important in professional networks because you want as much honest feedback as you can get. The better you develop relationships with members of your network, the more fine tuned your feedback machine is.
The powerful application of this is that you can dial in exactly how much effort you plan on putting into various network members before you intend to ask for feedback on an idea or problem. On giant platforms like LinkedIn, you may find that you must put a good deal of effort to build the relationship of your various connections before you are able to extract any honest feedback. I have found that smaller forums and message boards of entrepreneurs and professionals usually are more willing to engage you on the short term just because of the common ground of being a part of a smaller community. I have been capitalizing on this a lot and plan to do so much especially with the number of growing small community forums that exist.
Network Member Roles
Having a network of contacts is an important part of developing professionally in the world. We all communicate and exist in and through relationships. Without doing this would make life a very lonely experience. As we study building networks for professional purposes, we need to keep some attention on who our network members are and what roles do they fit for us. When we dive deeper into the realm of building a very large multi-functional professional network, we are going to encounter many different types of contacts and network members. It will be clear that some members may seem to be better at giving advice and consultation while others tend to be more available to give feedback. You may find that some are interested in current projects that you are working on and are eager to learn about them. Some may just be there for the drama, and some may be present to provide negativity or nothing at all.
The key point in mentioning roles is that while we are focused in growing our network, we should be growing it in the direction that we want to use it. Over the course of the past year I had read a couple books that mentioned networking, so I sought to network, and network I did. I was so willing to have followers, network connections, and friends on Facebook and Instagram that I was literally connecting with anyone willing to click the accept button. The point here is that many of the people who I connected with filled the role of nothing, ergo I never really created a network, rather I created a few internet accounts that had a high number of connections.
The solution to my problem here was to identify a few roles of network members that I wanted to create and then actively look for network members that could specifically fill that role. There is still a lot of filtering through people through various attempted connections and contacts, however, it becomes clear when you find someone that can provide at least one aspect of the things that you are looking for.
It is important to not be too restrictive in this area. Chances are if we are honest with ourselves and set out to connect only with those who could help push our current entrepreneurial venture forward, we would all end up with a very small list of connections. I think diversity here is important. We need to properly identify various areas that can be occupied by networking members. I think it is important to create an email or contact list and list them individually by their potential roles to be served in your network. I think that if you are properly developing a network member relationship then you could even discuss this with them, as well as ask them what roles that they are wanting you to fill as a member of their professional network.
When thinking of specific roles, I like to broadly define many categories. Mentors, mentees, those that provide consultation and advice, those that provide feedback, those that are able to help promote a venture, those that may be directly interested in helping a venture succeed, potential partners, other dreamers, general colleagues, and even unknown are all roles that I consider when I initially meet someone new.
Even if we are going nowhere and doing nothing, I think it is obvious that human beings are social creatures. Having a network of contacts is essential even in the dull activity of nothingness. If we escalate this thought to the next level of having goals and working towards them, it becomes even more clear that networking is necessary. Our success depends on the success of our ability to effectively network. I think focusing on the effectiveness of network should precede focus towards an efficient system of networking. I do not believe that we should do one and completely avoid the other, however, I believe that one should come before the other.
I believe that once we are effective at building our network, we need to continue this into a more efficient vehicle for networking. Efficiency in networking will be a topic of a future content submission.