There is the infamous saying “Your network is your net worth.” You hear it at home, school, work, church, mosque or temple, but what does it mean? Do you really understand it? Basically, I think it just means you can’t get far in life without others and the quality of people you have will determine how much you can do and how far you can go. For example, if you wanna build a house but your architects, builders, electricians, plumbers, etc. are mediocre then you’ll have a mediocre house that can collapse any day. As we dive into the world of networking, I hope my words shall connect with you! Let’s goo!
What is networking?
Networking means to connect, interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.
You could argue that the goal of networking is incomplete until it has benefited both parties.
Some Benefits of Networking
Networking makes the world a global village, connections are super important, you know the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” In the case of networking, I couldn’t agree more because people generally provide opportunities with people they know in one shape or form. Here some listed benefits of networking.
Rules of Networking
Networking isn't just about shaking hands, rubbing minds, smiling and kissing babies, it goes deeper than that and can be more complex but there are some rules to the game. According to Monster, the popular job seeking website in an article, they lay down some rules of networking which should be followed. They are:
- “First impressions count - both face-to-face and via the phone or email. Always stay sharp.
- Don't ask directly for a job - networking is not a job fair; it's an opportunity to gather potentially useful information.
- Give and take - networking is a two-way exchange, there's no such thing as a free lunch.
- Do the groundwork - research your contacts before meeting them and always follow up good leads or they pass on.
- Think laterally – try to expand your network outwards, beyond your comfort zone or usual sphere of operation.
- Patience is a virtue – getting involved in networking is being in there for the long haul; don't expect to land a plum job at your first meeting.”
Common Misconceptions about Networking
Networking can be a beautiful thing because without it, the economy won’t be the same. Imagine doing everything with only people you already know, there’s no demand for development, growth and expansion on a personal and social level. Imagine not having great music because your favourite artists can’t collab, think about your favourite song with a feature, would it be as good if it was solo? DJ Khaled is not exactly a rapper or singer but he manages to get the crème de la crème of the music industry to be on his songs. Imagine a song with DJ Khaled alone, it’s gonna be a lot of They don’t want us to wins and Another ones.
Imagine a movie where networking played a solid role, for example the Avengers franchise, it won’t be as great if they stuck with the same cast and crew, it won’t be refreshing. I just gave you some insight of the beauty of networking yet there’s some myths, stereotypes and misconceptions about networking. This isn’t to say they aren’t necessarily true, but I believe they’re largely untrue. With no further ado, here are some common networking misconceptions.
1. Networking is Inherently Dishonest
This is sort of like saying having money is inherently bad. It boils down to intent. Many people who don’t like to network or are afraid of it may hide it under the guise of them seeing networking as an insincere, dishonest or fake thing or otherwise a way of cutting corners. In other words, they see it as mingling with people we don’t necessarily like just to get what we want. Others, however, see networking in terms of reciprocity and giving back as much as one gets.
“One study discovered that views about the ethics of networking tend to split by level. While junior professionals were prone to feeling “dirty” about the instrumental networking they knew they had to do to advance their careers, their seniors did not feel the slightest bit conflicted about it because they believed they had something of comparable value to offer. The difference came down to confidence or doubt about the worth of their contributions, with junior professionals feeling more like supplicants than parties to equitable exchange.”
You could easily argue that this feeling of dirtiness is due to insecurity (see How to Overcome Insecurity) or a lack of self-confidence or esteem (see 12 Tips to Boost Self-Confidence & Self-Esteem). How do you remedy this? According to Herminia Ibarra from Harvard Business Review, you just have to do it and see for yourself and see the value it offers to you as an individual, your team and organisation at large.
2. The Bigger, The Better
Ahh the old “Does size matter?” debate and in this case I’ll say bigger ain’t better, it is how you use it, aka quality over quantity, why? Let’s do a little experiment, take your phone out and scroll all through your contacts, how many do you have? How many of them do you contact very often? How many do you contact sometimes? How many do you contact barely? How many have you stopped contacting? How many have you never contacted?
According to Josh Mait from Inc, "Quality trumps quantity when building connections. Eschew the pointless name collecting and focus instead on high-quality connections with long-term value. That means curating relationships in order to build a diverse group of thought leaders and decision makers with varied backgrounds and expertise, who themselves are well-connected."
3. It’s Who You Know
You may have heard the expression ”It’s not what you know, but who you know.” I don’t disagree with that at all. Yet, I feel a part of that common phrase is missing. Networking is all about who you don’t know. A better saying would be, “it’s not who you know, but who you should know.”
No matter where you are in your journey, developing networking skills and a solid network is always necessary. A network without the right people will put you at a disadvantage. For example, you’re a recording artist and you wanna get a record deal, if you only know your friends, you may not get there fast enough.
So what should you do? Well, you can keep building your leverage and singing online and releasing music on SoundCloud, if you’re lucky, a good manager or some influential people in the music industry such as bigger artists, A&R managers, promoters, etc. will coming knocking on your door. Your chances will increase if you try to connect with these people online or seek them out in person if possible. If things go well, soon enough you’ll be putting ink to paper and then laughing to the bank.
In the same vein, it isn’t just who you know and who you should know but who knows you as well. When people know you, you can get access, for example, you’re an aspiring rapper, you wanna get into the club but the bouncer doesn’t let you in because you’re not on the guest list but the club owner walks by, he sees you struggling and he says “Is that Lil’ Whatever?” you say “Yeah that’s me”, he says “Ayyy I love your song man, I’m a fan, bouncer, let him in.” Now you’re the club and you pooping bottles like it’s about to run out of fashion, you didn’t know the club owner but knows you.
4. It’s Too Stressful and Uncomfortable
There’s a common stereotype that networking always involves suits and ties, business cards and the likes, I remember feeling out of place so I either didn't go or was kinda unsure of myself when I went. While those kinda events still happen, the networking landscape has largely changed. Due to the levelled playing field of the internet, social media platforms are being utilised for network on global levels, you can make million dollar deals online while you’re in the comfort of your home in your pyjamas, that’s nuts!
5. Exclusive to Networking Events
More networking happens outside networking events than in them, at your typical networking events due to the misconceptions that go along with it, people may feel uneasy or stuck up but change the venue to like sports event or something and people ease up. I remember having this misconception where I didn’t go for networking events because I won’t fit in, because I thought they were formal events and I’m far from formal. It’s funny the excuses can conjure up so we won’t leave our comfort zone (see 3 Reasons You Should Leave Your Comfort Zone) or because we’re afraid (see5 Tips for Overcoming Fear).
Many people you met in your network were definitely not at networking events such as your friends, classmates, teachers, etc. these people are already part of your network and you should conscious of that. These people have the potential or ability to propel you to the next level if not today then tomorrow.
6. Our Network Should Consist Almost Entirely of Strong Ties
Charles Duhigg in his world renowned book, The Power of Habit mentioned the concept of ‘strong ties’ and ‘weak ties.’ Strong ties are your family and close friends and are generally people on your level and similar to you. Weak ties on the other hand, are acquaintances or friends of friends.
In the world of job seeking and opportunity hunting in general, these weak ties can be more useful as they spread farther than your strong ties and are more diverse. Plus, if your strong ties know about an opportunity, chances are you would know about it already or soon enough but when you run into an acquaintance or old friend, in the course of doing a little catching up, they can mention an opportunity that may benefit you!
Think of this as a spider’s web, the webbing closer to the centre are stronger but may less likely catch a lot of passing prey but they ones farther away may be able to catch more.
Duhigg goes on to talk about Rosa Parks and why she was the face of the Montgomery Bus Boycott during the Jim Crow era in the US. She was well respected in the community by her peers, those above and below her, both white and black. When she was apprehended for not giving up her seat upon the bus driver’s request for a white man to seat in Montgomery, Alabama. The reason was Martin Luther King Jnr rose up was partially because of her and why they were able to mobilise people to join the bus boycott was because Mrs Parks well-known and liked by many. She had a diverse network of people both strong and weak ties. You can have only so many strong ties but you can have a lot more weak ties.
7. Strictly for the Extroverted
Networking boils down to value, relevance and a bit of skill and personality and that’s why people usually feel they have no business networking because they feel it’s more suited for extroverts who get their energy from interacting with others. This is not entirely true because introverts are usually better listeners and are better equipped to remember small or minor details forgotten by others.
Regardless of your tendencies, you can’t sit around and expect people to come to you. This is not how networking is done. If you’re afraid of networking because you don’t fit in, you have to find a way to deal with such fear and the best way is usually going out there. When you speak passionately about what you’re doing, even to just one person, you’ll feel better than if you didn’t go at all.
As an introvert, start with one-on-one conversations instead of chatting with multiple people because it’s easier to do, If you feel not so confident, remember that networking is a learnable skill so get yo’ ass to work! Effective networking comes through planning, practice, and hard work.
8. Relationships Should Form Naturally or Spontaneously
You can kinda compare this to using manure or fertilizers on crops to increase production. Sure, you could say the more natural the better and I won’t argue with you there but sometimes it can’t happen, most people you will gel with naturally are people you have something in common with but sometimes that’s not exactly possible and even if it is, they can’t take you to where you need to be.
One of the biggest misconceptions that people have about networking is that relationships should form and grow spontaneously, among people who naturally like each other. Working at it strategically and methodically, they believe is sort of dirty, manipulative or devious. The problem with this way of thinking is that it produces networks that are not useful to us or our contacts because they are more of the same. This homogeneous network of ours can’t give us the length and breadth or diversity of inputs we need to understand the world around us, to make good decisions and to get people who are different from us on board with our ideas. That’s why we should develop our professional networks deliberately, intentionally and strategically with the intention and effort to create useful, relevant and useful relationships.
For a good network, you should follow The Law of 33% which means you should spend 33% of your time with those above you, another 33 % with those on your level and the remaining 33% with those below you. If we’re left to our comfort, we’ll spend 100% on ourselves, those on our level and those below us.
Types and Qualities of Effective Networks
Here are the types and qualities of networks according to Sandbox Advisors
“There are three types of Networks:
Who Should Be in Your Network?
When you're choosing your network, not every Tom, Dick and Harry gets to make the cut but this can't really be helped when you're starting out but to guide you, here a 3 keys people you should incorporate into your network courtesy of Career Attraction.
i. Decision-makers: Contacts who can provide you with direct leads, direct work or bridge you to contacts who can. These might be hiring managers, procurement personnel, clients, customers and agents who can transact with and buy from you.
ii. Information sources: Contacts who can provide valuable insight into companies, industries, trends and people about whom you need to know. For example, someone with a deep knowledge of marketing can be helpful as you position yourself for a new job or promotion. These are especially the people you should follow to networking events because they know their way around and can guide you properly.
iii. Cheerleaders: Contacts who will provide references, testimonials and will vouch for you. These contacts will give you support and encouragement. This will need to be someone who has enough optimism for both of you especially during tough times, they can be friends (see How to Make & Keep Friends) or even colleagues.
11 Tips for Networking
A rule of networking you should abide by which I didn't mention above is to listen first, talk second. Always remember that! Why? As Dale Carnegie in his infamous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People put it, people love to talk about themselves. I can testify to that and as my reader you should be able to confirm this. With no further ado, here are several tips on how to network.
1. You Already Have a Network
Based on the prior definition of a network or networking, it should be made apparent that we all have a network i.e. family, friends, classmates, church people. etc. In other words, people you know and interact with. These network of people may be important but you'll need an even larger but more selective network which is your "intentional network" i.e. people that are strategic and have more specific roles to play that is mutually beneficial. In networking, quality trumps quantity but it is understandable at first that it will be much harder to navigate or define what relationships are important or useful but don't worry, you can only get better with practice.
2. Start Networking Before You Need It
One doesn't have to be an unemployed youth or a broke ass before dusting off their suit and tie from 2013 to go try and do some networking in the hopes of landing a big job they're unprepared for.
According to Andrew Vest from Forbes, "People can sense when someone is only out to help himself. Tip-offs ranging from a panicked look in the eyes to a portfolio brimming with resumes will send them running in the other direction. On the other hand, by networking when you have no ulterior motive, you can begin to build relationships and a reputation for being generous rather than self-serving."
3. Lend a Helping Hand
As a beginner, you may not have much leverage and it can make you feel small and coupled with a feeling that the people you're hoping to network which such as decision-makers lack nothing. To put yourself in a better position, try to find out the desires, concerns or troubles your potential contact is facing if possible. In business these days, they tell you to not talk about the features of your product but how it will solve the problems of it's user that involves being more objective and removing your selfish desires. Whenever you're faced with a networking opportunity, always equip yourself withe "How can I help?" mentality
In networking, you should give before asking because you know what they say "givers never lack." Now, imagine, you're a CEO of a huge company, people are always asking you to invest, to do this, to do that but they never give you anything in return, they don't even try to butter you, it's always take, take, take. How would you feel? Drained? Unappreciated? Imagine, you see a letter saying this,
I have been following your work for a while now, essentially I am a big fan.
I would like to assist you on your project, all I need is some guidance from you."
Will not be more will to network with this person than if someone said I would like you to give me some money?
In essence, decision-makers are people too, they have real needs, if you can figure them out and help them with it, you'll be better off than enough else in the room.
For a better explanation of why you need to help those above you when network, please watch this Instagram video from Dan Lok, a multi-millionaire. You can watch the video here.
4. Brush Up Your Communication Skills
Networking in part involves selling an idea or yourself but should be mutually beneficial. It means it will involve a lot of talking and whatnot. You must find efficient ways to express yourself, starting with the small talk and pleasantries before moving on to business. Although some people prefer going straight to business talk, some people prefer to be buttered up. It's like trying charm a girl, if you got good game, you're in a better position to leave the club with her than if you can't even say your name correctly when you're talking to her.
5. Develop Your Elevator Pitch
This concept is based on selling yourself quickly based on the shortness of an elevator ride. If you get with the CEO at the ground floor and you wanna pitch him something quickly because you're only 3-5 floors away, what will you tell him/her? In other words, an elevator pitch is a personal description that sells up your professional self in a short and compelling manner that can be delivered quickly. It is not so much a memorised speech that is rigid but a couple of key points that are flexible and you can adapt to any given situation. Here's an example:
"I just graduated from the University of Nigeria with a law degree. In school, I was particularly interested in legal activism and pro bono work. Currently, due to my my passion for helping others and further a good cause, I stumbled into the Save the Girl Child initiative which helps educate poor families on the dangers of child marriage,n female genital mutilation, etc and also providing incentive to both the families and the girl children to stop such practices."
6. Find Better Networkers
In the world of networking, newbie or expert, you'll see that there are others who are much better at it than you, maybe it's their charisma, confidence or subject matter. These are the people you should roll with, they will teach you the ropes whether directly or indirectly, they can even set you up with the right people at the right time. All those "Hey there's someone I want you to meet" kind of people. Who knows, this person you meet might be your next partner, business wise, relationship wise or otherwise.
7. Think People, Not Positions
The person matters more than the position itself, just as the journey to achieving a goal should be more important than the goal itself. The person is more important than the position because people make decisions and this decision can either be beneficial or costly such as whether they want to connect with you or not.
Look around you, we all know people with big dreams and the work ethic to back them up, if you can start appreciating them today, you'll be in a better position, tomorrow. For example you have an old friend who wants to build a skyscraper and you have a construction who can do the work well even though slightly more expensive, this skyscraper friend of yours will most likely leave the fate of the building in your hands.
Andrew Sobel, author of Power Relationships says. "Some of those people, in eight or 10 years, are going to be influencers. They may even be CEOs." It's a lot easier to get to know someone and form a connection early in that person's career, he explains. "It's not that easy to break into the inner circle of 50- or 60-year-old executives. It's a lot easier to build up that equity early. So think about who in your network seems to be going places and is really interesting and make a strong connection. Even if they don't become an influencer, it'll be an interesting relationship."
8. Come Prepared
Preparation is key in networking especially when you're pitching an idea with the big wigs. You have to be prepared so you can manage yourself out there when the tough questions start rolling in. Even if you've not gotten to the point of a meeting, you should do some digging on who you will be potentially dealing with, because knowledge is power so use it to your advantage. When you start digging, you may discover some hidden gems, perhaps you even have a mutual friend and that will make you feel a lot better.
9. Follow up and Follow Through
Be a person of your word, so if you connected with someone and you said you'd contact them, do so. You never know, it can go a long way. Everyone is busy these days especially with the sensory overload of our devices and other commitments. With our attention spans getting shorter and shorter, networking can now be more of a "out of sight, out of mind" thing especially when you're the person with lesser leverage. It's like how relationship experts will tell you not to wait too long after collecting a girl's number to text her. Don't text her after 1 week because you may have to jog up her memory and we don't want that. In other words, strike while the iron is still hot!
Let’s dive into the world of basketball for a little bit. A lay-up is your first attempt at networking in a particular situation, you may or may not score i.e. you may be rejected or not (see How to Handle Rejection). In order to land a dunk, you must follow up after a lay up. Following up can help you land a dunk because as we should no, you can’t get everything on the first, second or even third try.
10. Create Something to Draw People to You
Many people don't like networking because it feels like chasing people around or sometimes even ass kissing and they don't wanna do that. Instead of doing all that, you can build something for yourself which attracts people to you which will help you build proper leverage. For example, Issa Rae who had the web series on YouTube, Awkward Black Girl subsequently got a deal with HBO for her now popular hit series, Insecure. Another example is George R. R. Martin who wrote the books, Game of Thrones which have been adapted into the small screen behemoth with the same name. So, start a blog, a social media page, or even a series and Netflix might come calling instead of you calling 'em. In short, the opportunities and money go where there's enough eyeballs.
11. Go Online
I know this one is quite obvious but the networking opportunities are numerous to count, I know a good amount of you reading this will be from Facebook groups I joined where I post my link and can connect with like-minded people. In fact, all the people who have guest posted on my blog and vice versa were people in different continents! I never met ‘em a day in my life.
Let’s take a closer look at online networking using the fairly recent business model of ‘drop shipping’ which is making people lots of money when done right. Drop shipping basically entails being a seller online but having no products instead the products on your online store belongs to a supplier somewhere else, usually China. When people order from your store, it is the supplier that processes and delivers the order and you get your own cut. In this case of online networking, you don’t necessary have to interact with your supplier but it’s best if you do, I mean after all, they’re the ones putting money in your pocket.
In conclusion, network deals with intent, the goal you have in mind and if you achieved it, you will be more successful at networking if you make it more about others than yourself. Network is about appreciating the value of others, enjoying people's company, exchanging ideas, engaging in your passions or interests, listening to the issues people face and even offering advice or solutions. You should aim to build long lasting and genuine relationships, through maintaining effective connection with others. Oh isn't networking a beautiful thing?
QOTD: "Your network is the people who want to help you, and you want to help them, and that's really powerful." - Reid Hoffman
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WELL, THAT’S IT FROM ME GUYS. NOW…
Remember to TAKE ACTION because to know and not to do is really not to know. Have you used any of these tips before or do you have some more tips you'd like to share? Comment below. Share this on social media and SUBSCRIBE to our blog so you don't miss a thing! Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. See ya next time.
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My name is Ofai and I'm passionate about blogging and it gives me fulfillment that I can help you out so sit back, relax and enjoy your weekly carats of #SelfImprovementGems with me!