A Good Network Is A Circle Of Friends
Good networking isn’t about the quantity of contacts you make; it’s about the quality of relationships you enjoy.
Question: A merger left me on the street after three years running a very successful and productive marketing organization. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’ve tried to stay positive, but I’m wondering whether the outplacement my former employer gave me is helping or hurting me. I tried their “networking” methods, but contacting everyone I know to get job leads is like sending out spam to develop a solid customer base. It violates everything I know about marketing with integrity. Something is wrong with this. So tell me what good networking is.
Nick Corcodilos: The distinction between good networking and bad networking is lost on many people. The best part of this column is the caution you offer that conventional networking is not sound marketing. Thanks for saying it.
To answer your question, I’m going to reprint a section of one of my PDF books, “How Can I Change Careers?,” which discusses the most important things I know about networking with integrity. I think you’ll understand it with no problem. I wish you the best. Keep your standards high, and I think you’ll find that one solid employer.
The Basics Of Good Networking
In a lot of professional circles, “networking” has come to be regarded as a necessary evil that leads to new jobs and new customers. I prefer to regard it as an enjoyable social practice that enriches my life. Therein, I believe, lies the difference between bad networking and good networking.
Has an old contact called you when she’s job hunting? Suddenly an otherwise casual, friendly person turns into a preoccupied motor-mouth who makes you wish you’d let voicemail take the call. That’s an example of bad networking.
Networking is an unfortunate term because it implies connections but ignores the importance of true relationships. Good networking isn’t about the quantity of contacts you make; it’s about the quality of relationships you enjoy.
Let’s take a look at what’s wrong with conventional notions of networking practices so we can come up with a simple approach to good networking.
Don’t Speculate For A Job
The way most people network for a job smacks of day trading in the stock market. The networker has no interest in the people or companies she’s “investing” in. She just wants a quick profit. She skims the surface of an industry or profession, trying to find easy contacts that might pay off quickly.
When you encounter an opportunistic networker, you’ll find that she listens carefully to the useful information you give her, but once you’re done helping, she’s not interested in you any more. She might drop some tidbits your way, but don’t expect her to remember you next week.
Invest In Relationships
Contrast this to someone who reads about your company and calls to discuss how you applied new methods to produce new results. She’s interested in your work and stays in touch with you, perhaps sending an article about a related topic after you’ve talked. She’s investing in a potentially valuable relationship.
This initial contact might prompt you one day to call your newfound friend for advice or to visit her company’s booth at the next trade show and introduce yourself. Maybe it never goes beyond that or maybe one day you’ll work together. The point is, after a time you become familiar to one another. You become members of one another’s circle. You’ll help one another because you’re friends, not “because it will pay off later.”
People trust other people they know. Why? Because getting to know you takes a long time. This approach to business reveals integrity, patience, and trust. People who have made that kind of investment in you are usually worthy of your trust. They will refer a buddy to you—and you’re glad to make the new acquaintance because you are all part of the same circle. This belonging is at the root of a phenomenon that surprises no one. Studies repeatedly show that between 40% to 60% of jobs are found and filled through personal contacts.
People in your circle are ones you would hire or go to work for. If there’s a catch to this, it’s that you have to invest in getting to know them first. (See “3 Keys To Productive Networking.”) That’s what makes a really good network of people so difficult to become a part of. It’s also what makes it so desirable to belong to.