Networking – that big scary word that comes up in any career that requires socializing. Although, if we think about it, networking is a pretty big part of every career now. Writers, artists, bloggers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, politicians, salesmen/women; everyone networks. Even if it’s just among immediate colleagues (although I would bet if we sat down and thought about it for a minute, that web extends well past our coworkers.) Still, it seems… daunting. And I suppose it is?
There’s the beginning question of where to draw the line with this ‘networking relationship’, do you draw a line? Do you even bother making a line, or does that inherently hinder the progress of the relationship? How do you approach an individual with the desire to network, to form this symbiotic co-existence on a professional level to assist, motivate, inspire, “promote” etc. each other? Is there an etiquette for that? Or do we just approach them like a potential friend, and move into the “hey be a business contact with me”? Does it depend on the situation? The person? How do you avoid coming off as disingenuous?
So many questions. So overwhelming, and if you’re anything like me, poor reader, and find comfort and confidence in social etiquette… it’s almost too much. Like treading water in a tempest in the middle of the Baltic Sea. Sayonara sanity? Yeah, that’s how it has felt. Overwhelming to the point of anxiety and frustration.
Still, it didn’t occur to me to actually Google networking until a few days ago. Mostly, I think, because I – like many others – assumed I knew how one networks. Maybe not the proper social parameters to approach an individual through… but I thought I knew. In a general sense, I did. However, I was thinking on much too large of a scale. Much too broadly. Big leaps rather than small steps.
I also sat through a livestream of the Buffini Success Tour yesterday afternoon, and listened to Darren Hardy speak. Brilliant. Brilliant speaker. Just, some of the things I learned in that hour and a half, some of the reinforcement, the reminders; they settled a lot of those worries (not entirely, I’m a neurotic wreck and nothing will entirely silence that.) But it helped. It gave me a point of reference to start, at least, looking for answers. How to form questions.
In another sense, this blog will (has already) helped solidify a few of those more ambiguous questions.
So last night, motivated by this speaker and having a more solid idea for taking action, I googled networking (-gasp-). What I immediately found was this glorious little article that broke networking down into 8 steps.
Start small, and build out. Common sense, right? Well, honestly, in the mad scramble of ‘get business’, ‘meet people’, ‘make money’, ‘learn’, ‘be successful’, etc. etc. etc. That sort of gets lost. You want to cast the net as broadly as possible, gather in those gems as quickly as possible, and like a gold miner, sift it through water. Timely. Tedious. Daunting. And not as likely to be successful as targeting specific individuals, connecting with them. Offering an exchange of knowledge, of professional companionship, of assistance and/or work; and building a few, firmly rooted contacts with people who will be important to your success. Whose success you can hopefully play an important role in; give and take.
Buffini said one should go into a relationship with the expectation of giving 100% and receiving nothing, because that is the only way you’re going to gain. To cultivate a relationship rather than looking to use someone to progress yourself.
Not even a revelation, but putting it down like that… it makes it less frightening, this beast they call networking.
So I made a list of friends, people I already have good relationships with, or who I know but lost touch with and travel different social circles than me. I figured, that increased my chances of meeting new people I don’t already know. I made another list of people I don’t know quite as well, but who I enjoyed talking to before and hope to sort of… solidify a relationship. Then I copied down a few people I don’t know very well, but who I respect and would be excited, honored – a gushing mess, really, – to work with. People I want to learn from but also, I suppose, become a peer to.
So friends are a good place to start building. Your GP, people you see regularly all the time. Begin with them… express a desire to be contacts, to promote each others business.
ASK THEM FOR REFERRALS.
I think that is the most ridiculously shocking thing I’ve learned (but haven’t put properly into practice yet as i should be doing.) ASK FOR BUSINESS. It is not rude. It is not bad. One would consider, in hindsight, it’s an obvious thing to do? But something that, again, hadn’t occurred to me.