When I ask someone how they grow their network; most of the time I hear one of three answers:
- I only invite people that I know well;
- I actively invite anyone and I let anyone in; or
- If they have been following a discussion the answer is; “I’m somewhere in the middle.”
My question to you is where are you in your networking strategy? Or… Do you even have a strategy?
Networking is a dilemma for many because they:
- Are not sure who should or should not be in their network;
- Don’t know how many to have in their network;
- Are confused as to how well they should know someone before bringing them into their network;
- Do not know how to manage their network;
- Don’t know how or how frequently to communicate with their network; or
- Have not learned how to actively network.
Answering any or all of these questions can be a challenge.
You can make it easier on yourself when the first question you ask is: “What is the purpose of my network?” or “Why am I networking?” When you know your purpose the answers to the above questions become much easier.
Developing Your Networking Purpose
Develop your networking purpose first! Making this step your priority will help you decide who you want to invite or allow into your network.
If your purpose is to share personal information; then your network would consist of close friends and family. On the other hand if your purpose is to share information that showcases your talents, expertise, and knowledge; then your network will consist of anyone that finds you and/or your information interesting.
In the remainder of this post I discuss other reasons for networking and other types of networks. I look forward to your comments.
Note: Even though you may have a well defined plan and purpose for your networking you must remember that networking is a two-way street. You must give to receive and you should be giving first. Your network will not produce for you if you do not have a give first attitude!
So what is your purpose? What are you hoping to accomplish through your network? Here are five of the most common reasons for networking…
- Sharing information with close friends and family;
- Looking for career and business opportunities;
- Developing a resource for answering questions pertaining to day-to-day tasks or issues;
- Creating a team that can give strategic career, business, industry, economic, or other perspectives; or
- Building your personal or product brand.
Some of these reasons are odds with one another and mean that either you need a way to segment your network or you need to have more than one network. Don’t let the confusion bog you down; keep moving!
The Social Network is the one where you share personal information with close friends and family. On the Social Network you may discuss movies you see, vacations you take, the food you eat, the things your children do, etc.
Even though the intent may be to keep this among friends and family there is always the risk it may get released; so it is definitely in your best interest to only post things that, if they do get out, they will not come back to haunt you.
Career/Business Opportunity Network
If your purpose for networking is to create career or business opportunities then the people you invite or accept into your network will be those that have opportunities, can create opportunities, or can connect you to opportunities. Your goal is to bring in hiring managers, decision makers, recruiters, business development professionals, people that can connect you to other people or opportunities, and other similar types of individuals.
Resource or Operational Network
If your networking purpose is a resource or operational network then you will fill your network with people that can assist you and your team in completing your day-to-day challenges and tasks. You want people that you can call on for answers and to help with solutions. This is a very task oriented network. Read my previous post Operational Networks Enable You to Make Better Decisions for more on Operational Networks.
Strategic or Perspective Network
If your networking purpose is to gain perspective on the direction of your chosen job, your career progression, your business or organization, your industry, business in general, legislative directions, etc.; then you want to fill your network with experts in the particular area of your interest.
Input from your strategic network will help you answer questions looking forward on the choice you should be making for yourself and/or your business. Your strategic network is like a personal board of directors and consulting team.
Personal Brand Building Network
To build your personal or business brand takes a different approach to networking. With this strategy you want to increase your sphere of influence and you want a network that will help in the process. You want people that have lots of connections, have a reasonable understanding of who you are and what you have to offer, and are willing to recommend, endorse, and promote you. A good perspective on this is Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point.”
Having a large network is fundamental to this UPPROACH. A large network increases the chances that your message will be relayed and that it will be relayed to a large audience. All you need is a couple of individuals with 30,000+ connections to say a thing or two and you have the opportunity to go viral. If you keep your network small; your will have small opportunities. Read my post on Small Networks Equal Small Opportunities.
Networking with Today’s Tools Makes the Networking Easier and at the Same Time More Complex
In the past networking was much more simple; you never had to worry about separating your messages by audience because the ability to share a message with all of your audiences was unfeasible, if not, impossible. That is no longer the case with the vast array of Social Networking tools that exist.
Today the challenges have reversed and sharing is easy while segmenting and controlling the readers or receivers of your message is difficult. In fact, if you are not careful thousands, if not, millions of people can see your message; whether you want them to or not!
A Note to Even the Most Careful Networker
Even though the intent may be to manage your message and keep it to a certain group; the reality is that your message always has the possibility of being spread far and wide. With this in mind it is critical that the messages you post or send; you are willing to share with the world. If that is not the case; you must be extremely careful.
The Internet has a tendency to spread things to a great many people very quickly. The rule is don’t post something you wouldn’t want your mother to know; because she just might see it regardless of your efforts to hide the information. That means that potential employers, business partners, or investors have a chance of seeing the message as well.
To be an effective networker you must have a networking purpose. You must know why you are networking, who you want in your network, and how you will communicate with your network. Without these fundamentals your network will never be able to produce to its full potential for you or your for your connections.
Do you approach things with an UPPROACH? With the idea that when you make a change; it shouldn’t just be a change – rather it should be a change for the better. This was the premise that caused UPPROACH to be born. The idea of don’t just do it; do it better!
Tom Staskiewicz speaks, coaches, and consults on Professional and Business Networking and how Social Media is a tool in that process. He helps businesses, organizations, and individuals understand the power of networking and recognize that networking is a tool for giving.
Tom believes that when you give value to your network; your network will give value back to you. Using today’s Social Media tools makes Professional and Business Networking more efficient, improves decisions, and enables you to respond more effectively to your audiences.
Do you want to be more effective with your Professional and Business Networking? Would you like to be making more “warm” contacts instead of “cold” calls? Contact Tom to learn more about how he can help you and/or your organization reach your networking goals.