The Associate Provost here at OnlinePlus, Hunt Lambert, recently gave our blog team an article that he’d read about networking, saying, and I quote, “This is the best guide to networking I’ve ever read.”
For those of you who might not know Hunt, he’s an extremely accomplished business man, and even teaches a few of our MBA courses – so when he says something like that, you take note, and read the article for yourself.
After doing so, I’d have to agree.
In the article, author Jeff Haden starts by offering a few suggestions as to what networking really is:
- In the beginning, it’s always about giving, not receiving.
- It’s not about you; people care about what you can do for them before how they can help you.
- It’s highly targeted. Skip the unfocused events and find someone you can help, figure out if they might be able to help you, and establish contact on your own terms.
- Be realistic. Don’t expect to network with the guru in your industry for a very long time – networking is about mutual benefit, and let’s face it, as much as they can help you, you have nothing of value to offer them at first.
Then, Haden outlines four steps to making the time you spend networking actually pay off.
Step 1 – Segment your networking targets based on the relationship you can create with them. Consider what you have to offer and what they have to give, in addition to the value of each.
Step 2 – Identify the best approach to each target. Haden says, “Provide, provide, provide. In a few cases you’ll ask for what you want, but most of the time you’ll only provide. Whether or not you ask depends on how you categorized the target.”
Step 3 – Determine what you should provide. All this talk about giving may seem like a lot of work, but like Haden mentions, networking is a mutual relationship – about give and take eventually, and by giving first, you put the ball in their court. When you think of what you can provide, consider appreciation, advice, assistance, or referrals. Whatever you end up choosing, just make sure it’s of true value.
Step 4 – Decide how much time you can afford to spend on networking. Sure when you get started, you’re going to be giving more than you take, but your ultimate goal is to establish mutually beneficial relationships. Haden suggests 20 minutes. He says if you follow the first three steps, identifying the right targets and providing something of value, “a few minutes a day will pay off a lot more than the time you currently waste collecting business cards, playing golf, and no-purpose schmoozing.”
So, there you have it. I was drawn to the article because it offers a really different approach to networking than I’ve ever seen – this idea of segmenting your targets and really thinking through what to provide them that will end up getting you the most from them as well.
The original article, “The Only Business Networking Guide You’ll Ever Need”, was written by Jeff Haden and appeared on cbsnews.com in June of last year. When I went to search for it, a couple other interesting articles came up as well, you know, in case the aforementioned one isn’t the only guide you’ll ever need.
- “Business Networking Without Looking Desperate: 5 Rules”
- “I’ve Built a Network, Now How Do I Use It?”
You should also check out the four-part series on networking written by my OnlinePlus colleague Tamara Burns:
- “Networking – Be Prepared, Not Scared”
- “Networking – You are there, now what?”
- “But, but, but … what do I say while networking?”
- “Keep the Connection After Networking”
What are your thoughts on networking? Share your tips – even if they’re not included in the only guide you’ll ever need.