While this title may lead some to think otherwise, networking is NOT a game. It is not a technique that should be revved up out of sheer need and change. It is a lifestyle of connecting, helping others, and yourself that never ends. As defined in this blog, networking is a process of building trusting relationships that are mutually beneficial. It is a intentional system that fosters a sense of community and sharing between and amongst colleagues, family members, neighbors and friends. Therefore, by definition, it can not be done alone. Networks are composed of people you know and care about. And focuses on your existing network--the amazing people you know but really don't know. While being in charge of your career and life can be a lonely job, your network should be your source of support, guidance, inspiration, and connections that help you advance your life and career. It is not about just meeting new people and adding names to your FB friend list. Networking is about relationships that help one another and should start with giving without an expectation.
---I am reiterating this definition because I realized some of my newer readers have not heard me speak or read my earlier posts.---
People confess that the hardest part of networking is the meeting people part. However, what I am emphasizing here is for people to reach out to people they know, to reconnect with people that may not currently be part their active network. This is so much easier than approaching strangers at a cocktail party and frankly less risky. But why should I reconnect with people I know? What value does that have for me? I need new people and energy.
By reconnecting with people you like and trust, you start from a common basis for sharing and caring. You will be able to talk about things that matter in frank terms and consider ways of helping one another faster. I guarantee you that these people have influence and connections you never considered or under-estimated. And by the way they have networks!
We all know, worked with, went to school with: people who we have not been able to keep in touch with. These are great people we liked and even admired, but the busyness of life have pulled you apart. You may even have a twinge of guilt about not staying connected with them. :) These include relatives!
In addition, there are people you know now and like, who you have not made time for. You'd love to know them and their families better. You say to yourself, "I wish I could spend more time with this person/people."
Again, questions emerge in your brain. But why John will these connections help me with my immediate goal/challenge/need? I don't have time to reconnect or connect with these people I know. (Are you listening to yourself?) The greatest regret, bar none, is the regret that comes from these lost moments of connection and relationships abandoned.
Here's an excerpt from a young man who heard me speak a few weeks ago:
".... you talked about not underestimating our peers in terms of networking and building relationships. Ironically, the previous week I ran into an old acquaintance I had not seen since 2006. We caught each others eye at the elevators and instead of passing him by, like I normally would have, we stopped to chat. It's not that I don't enjoy being social, but I have 3 part-time jobs, and am generally too exhausted to hang around any longer than necessary. But I stopped this time. We chatted and set up a lunch date for the day that you came to speak. I was planning on canceling the lunch. Why did I need to talk to him anyway? He's just an old friend who isn't in my field. It's not like he's going to give me a job. Well, needless to say, your message hit me hard and I had lunch with him after all. We had a great time and reconnecting with him will be socially and professionally beneficial to both of us, even if the dividends don't pay off immediately. Thanks for urging me to follow through with that."
Go back to the first paragraph and remember,
" Networks are composed of people you know and care about. And focuses on your exisiting network--the amazing people you know but don't know. While being in charge of your career and life can be a lonely job, your network should be your source of support, guidance, inspiration, and connections that help you advance your life and career."
The only way your network grows and evolves is by reconnecting and connecting. Yes, it is possible that you magically sit next to someone, or meet someone randomly, who possesses the answers to your dreams and prayers. Why couldn't that special person be someone you know but don't know? YOUR network only gets stronger through your investments in it. And the strength of your existing network reveals itself in surprising ways. And winning a lottery ticket is still a possibility :)
Think about it, when you reconnect with someone you care about, you lessen guilt, you reduce regret and most important, you make the world a bit smaller and more hospitable. Never underestimate the people to whom people you are connected. I am surprised everyday, by re-connections I make that add unintended and substantial dimensions to my life.
Said another way, meeting people to just meet people for their influence and connections is a superficial game. It is the classic, disposable, me-oriented process that has given networking a bad and nausea producing name .
The point here is there are few quick fixes in life. Miracle 6 week exercise programs or diets don't generate lasting results or increase your health metrics. When we desire fast results for little effort, we know that our gullible persona has take over the steering wheel. Networking takes persistent time and effort and the benefits will be returned to you manifold.
Of course, what you say or do when you make these connections is crucial and the subject of many posts here. But I wanted to reiterate that networking is a lifestyle that is a very accessible process. So much easier than people think, because it all starts by contacting people you already know!
What are you waiting for?
Thanks for reading. John