Defining Professional or Business Networking
The term networking is bantered about frequently but what does it really mean from a professional or business perspective? Professional and/or business networks:
- Contain individuals with, at least, a loose tie through a common business interest.
- Can evolve to become closer and even personal relationships; but they start at the business level.
- Contain people you know well, acquaintances, and even people that you are getting to know.
- Include subject matter experts that can help you solve problems and answer questions.
- Have individuals that can provide you with perspective and insight within your industry, your business, or in general.
Professional and business networks are NOT simply about who you can tap when you need a job. They are NOT about being there when you find yourself in need. Sadly there are many people that have this misunderstanding about networks and abuse the relationships. In the process they give networking a bad name and therefore make others reluctant to participate.
Networking is about mutually beneficial relationships that may not even be helpful today; rather sometime in the future. But that is okay; there is no requirement for immediacy!
I once met the CFO for a major sporting goods company. We connected immediately on many levels, but not necessarily on a business level. He left the door open in the event I ever needed something. A few years later; I did and he lived up to his word.
The reality is that you never know when or who within your network will need help or be able to help you; you just need to be ready and have nurtured your network with value.
Three Types of Networks
Did you know that there are three types of networks? Two of these are Professional and the other Social. To be a successful networker you must know the difference and create the type(s) of networks that will help you achieve your networking goals. The three types are:
- Social Networks;
- Operational Networks;
- Strategic Networks.
Everyone is familiar with the concept of a Social Network; in fact, many think that is the only type of network and today’s Social Media does little to dissuade that thinking. Social Networks are truly that they are about your social activities; the things you do for leisure, the activities of the family, etc. There may be a business connection, but that is not the primary connection with Social Networks.
Next is the operational network. This network is professional an/or business connections. These are the connections that help you complete tasks. They are your go to people for answers, suggestions, solutions, examples, research, etc. Many companies have these resources identified internally, but they are typically by specialties.
An operational network is more fluid in that you can pose your question to the group and the group can then collaborate on the solution. Even though there are identified experts in the organization; your operational network may have others that can expand upon the answer or help with applying it to a specific situation.
A strategic network is comprised of individuals that can help you interpret and apply what is happening in your organization, your industry, your city, state, country, or even the world. They provide a broader perspective as you work to develop your short and long term strategies.
You want your strategic network to have a variety of talents so you can draw on their collective knowledge to develop your strategies.
In your organization you strategic network cannot include just one or two board members or company executives. It cannot include only people from your department. The reason is that this limited input may be missing the big picture or may have their own picture of the future and their picture may not be consistent with what others see or believe. Quality strategy decisions require exceptional input from a variety of sources that enable you to gain proper perspective.
Download our free report The Three Types of Networks.
Tom Staskiewicz speaks and coaches on structuring Social Media and Professional Networking to help businesses, organizations, and individuals establish and manage their Social Media presence to increase efficiency, improve decisions, and respond to your audiences. Your Social Media presence doesn’t just happen and will not take care of itself. Tom helps you with those processes so your Social Media efforts will work for you.
Learn how Tom can help you and/or your organization develop your Professional Network or Social Media: email Tom for information.