These are my notes for a speech that I gave to a group of job seekers in July 2009
First things First – Let me tell you what I think Networking is
I define Networking as the “Act of finding, developing and nurturing relationships that can mutually move people forward thru life.”
Ok, we know there are lots of different Networking tools and we use these tools for
Social Networking – Face Book & My Space
Business Networks – LinkedIn, Plaxo, Twitter, etc
Job Search Networks – Monster, CareerBuilder, Hot Jobs, Dice, etc, etc
Relationship Networks – Eharmony, Match.com, Friend Finder, Great Expectations, SugarDaddie, IDate, OK that’s enough, you get the point and I struggle keeping track of all these passwords anyway..
These tools play a role in the task of Networking for personal, professional and/or career reasons.
However Real Networking is Face-Face.
I believe that Networking is important in life. Because the alternative to Mutually moving forward thru life is something none of us want, as I am sure you can attest.
We all do it Subconsciously and Consciously every day of our lives.
We started this activity when we were in Pre-School and Kindergarten.
In these classes we actually use the phrase –
“Will you be my friend” or “Will you play with me”
And even, “I’ll invite you to my birthday party if you play with me now”
Even in kindergarten, Mutually moving people forward thru life.
We continued Networking in High School – but I assure you, we didn’t call it that.
We joined clubs, Youth Groups and even specific classes, with the primary intention of being a part of a group, to be with people who had similar interest or to meet people of the “Opposite Sex”.
A friend of mine told me that he joined the debate club to be friends with a boy whose father owned the local pizza joint and he wanted to get a job there. It worked. My friend joined the debate club, worked hard for the club and then was able to get help from the other kid.
Finding, developing and nurturing relationships that can mutually move people forward thru life.
In college we joined fraternities and clubs to meet people who had similar interests or could help us move forward with our goals.
Maybe the goals started out simple and shallow (beer, girls), but as we matured in college we turned these activities into meeting people who could help us with our classes and move us forward in our degrees and then into internships and jobs.
Again, Finding, developing and nurturing relationships that can mutually move people forward thru life.
Once we get into the business world, we continue networking.
As a business developer in the sales world, I network all different ways, in order to find people or businesses that can benefit from my services or goods, and I from theirs. Done properly, it works.
Networking is by far one of the most important activities that I feel has helped propel me in my professional and business life.
Networking works as long as you have people to network with. These people do not pop out of the wood work and none of us like cold calling to meet people (even though I do this periodically)
Networking as I have defined it (mutually moving people forward thru life) works best with an actively growing Circle of Contacts.
Your circle of contacts starts with your family and friends and continues with every business, group and person you meet in life. You need to be constantly growing your circle of contacts and keeping track of them all. And I don’t mean collect business cards.
I have a large Circle of Contacts. To some degree or another I know them and they know me.
I have some form of a relationship with every contact in my circle of contacts.
The relationship does not have to be personal and it does not have to be direct business.
Hopefully most of your contacts you know personally and or directly from a business perspective. Even better, knowing your business contacts personally really creates a strong relationship. This does not happen overnight and requires that you reach out to your business contacts for stuff beyond business. There are lots of ideas, some work for me; others will only work for you.
However – there will be contacts that you do not know personally and will only know them professionally and maybe not very well. But you do need to know enough about them to understand them and what value you have for them and what value they have for you. Otherwise they are just names in your Circle of Contacts and have no meaningful value to you or them.
You also need to contact the people in your Circle of contacts as often as possible and appropriate. This varies person to person and based on your relationship. However, they all have to be touched at least a few times a year. Even if just with a simple note or email saying hello and asking them how they are doing.
Otherwise they will forget who you are and what you do and you could forget them and what they do. Knowing each other, even in the basic of ways is what creates the relationship and this happens thru getting together, talking, sharing, etc.
I call it touching.
And, you must be willing to help your contacts when they ask for it, either directly or indirectly by introducing them to others in your circle that may be able to help them.
Mutually moving people forward thru life.
I have many different types of relationship with my contacts and I touch them in different ways and frequencies.
My Family, Close Friends, Fellow Coworkers and Regular Business contacts are my most active Circle of Contacts. I touch these folks daily, weekly and/or monthly.
My Former Coworkers, Infrequent Business contacts, Distant Friends and Distant Business Associates are what I call my weak ties. I got this phrase from a book I just read. I touch these people at least a few times a year.
They are an important part of my Circle of Contacts. – I’ll explain why in a moment.
I also have a group that I call my Nope List – These are contacts that I will not do business with, or recommend. They are in my list so that I can keep in touch with them. Sort of the old adage, keep your friends close and enemies closer kind of thing.
For your Circle of Contacts to have any value for you and for them, you & they have to be willing to participate in “mutually moving forward thru life”.
Most of the people in my Nope List don’t understand this and I can’t help them.
Back to the weak ties – Here is an example why weak ties should be important to you:
In the book – The Tipping point, Malcolm Gladwell refers to a study that said:
56% of a survey group found their current job thru a personal contact
Now here is the really interesting number – of the 56% only 17% of these actually “touched” these personal contacts on a regular basis.
They got their jobs thru their Weak Ties.
Never discount your distant friends, former coworkers or distant business contacts.
If you network well within your full circle of contacts, any one of them could help you with your need or desire.
Here is an example – My march of Dimes work
1) I send an email out every year looking for Chili Judges for an event I am a part of. Every year 100 people help me with this and most of them are my weak ties
2) I send another email out every year asking for donations to my yearly charity. 50 people send me money every year and again, most of them are my weak ties and they are not the Chili Judges.
Because I truly believe that we “mutually move people forward thru life” – if any of these folks ask me to help them in any way – I never disappoint them. I do the best I can to help them out either directly or by sharing their need and desires with my circle of contacts.
Mutually moving people forward thru life is a 2-way street.
It’s also important to keep in mind – If you want to mutually move forward thru life – keep expanding this circle of Contacts.
Keith Ferrazzi wrote a book Titled “Never Eat Alone”
Who has read it?
If you have not, go to the library and borrow it – it is well worth reading for anyone who wants to mutually move forward thru life.
Ferrazzi says that the best way to expand your Circle of Contacts is to help someone and more specifically, help them personally. And he says that when you offer to help someone, you must do it Immediately and Completely.
He goes on to say that as you expand your Circle of Contacts you are directly expanding your personal and professional opportunities, exponentially.
Here is an example – Dad of College Grad asking me to help his son.
Networking is finding, developing and nurture relationships that can mutually move people forward thru life.
I boldly network every waking hour. Ask my wife, she hates it, but she knows it is who I am.
I believe that by regularly meeting new and different people, we benefit from the natural effect of “an auto expanding circle of contacts”
Different is more important than just new. You need to know people, who are not like you, don’t have the same interests, from different states, industries and cultures. If the only people you know are people like you, then for the most part the only things in life you will ever experience are the same things you do now.
Variety is not just the spice of life, but the spice of new jobs, new careers, and new business opportunities. Variety is what keeps your Circle of Contacts expanding with the greatest value.
I traveled for many years where I met people from all walks of life and lots of different industries.
Each time I left a city, I would guarantee there was at least one person in that City who would never forget Teddy Burriss. I strived to leave a good impression everywhere I went.
However, I am human and I am a man, there are probably a few memories out there of something foolish I did. But, I assure you, these memories are few and far between, and my picture has never hung in a post office.
I know that by leaving a good impression, one day the people who remembered me, could possibly help me or need my help. Again, mutually moving people forward thru life.
Here is one example – 20 years ago I did some development work for a guy in Abington Va. I didn’t do any work for him since then. 5 years ago, he needed help with this software, and I couldn’t help him, so I introduced him to someone that I knew was still using that old development tool. He offered to pay me for finding the help he got. I said thanks anyway. I told him that maybe I’ll need his help one day.
Last year he gave me a $100 donation to one of my charitable causes and I’m sure if he can, he will do it again this year.
Networking has to be mutually Beneficial or it will fail.
We may enjoy saying “It’s all about ME!!”, but it can’t be.
Networking has to be a 2-way street, and according to many experts – it has to be more about the other person.
Here is an important point about how to treat your Circle of Contacts, again the people who should be a part of mutually moving you forward thru life.
Your credibility is vital to your circle of contacts – never jeopardize it.
Be fair, polite and care for your contacts as you hope they will do for you.
And ask them if they need anything and be ready to help them immediately and completely.
Over time your circle of contacts will grow into great relationships of people who you trust and who trust you.
And – Never be the one who burns the bridge.
Here is an example of why you never burn a bridge:
Interviewed a guy who disappeared on me.
I have a good relationship with this guy now and have had numerous opportunities to work with him and others that he has introduced me to since then.
Your Circle of Contacts will change regularly, hopefully increasing more than you can imagine right now.
Now let me try to bring this home for everyone.
My points are:
· Networking with a Growing Circle of Contacts is vital to your personal and professional growth
· Networking is face-face (Networking tools help you to meet and virtually touch your contacts)
· Your circle of contacts needs to be expanding constantly with new and different people, people from the past and your Weak Ties.
· Be willing to help others with any request they put to you, whether directly or indirectly by introducing them to others in your circle of contacts, Immediately and Completely.
· Never be the one to burn a bridge
When your business life get’s interrupted and you start looking for new careers, new jobs or business opportunities, your Networking can help you directly now.
How do we grow our Circle of Contacts and benefit from Mutually moving forward in life:
Use the Network tools –LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and Networking groups to find new contacts that you can develop and nurture into mutual relationships.
Get out, meet people, call your circle of contacts and have coffee, lunch, sweet tea or an after 5 drink with them.
Ask your circle of contacts to personally introduce you to new contacts that they feel can help you either directly or indirectly. You have to ASK!
Expand your circle of contacts with new and more importantly different contacts.
Share your needs and desires with your Circle of Contacts, especially your weak ties.
And, most importantly, ask them what you can do to help them and if they have a need that you can help them with – do it, and do it before you do anything else.
Face-face networking will get you a job far faster than any other activity you could be doing.
Don’t waste a lot of time on the job boards or jump out of bed dying to read the newspaper to find a job listing that you can send your resume to.
Don’t send resume after resume to blind email addresses of fax numbers hoping and praying for an interview.
It’s not easy and it takes a leap of faith in yourself.
5 years ago I would never have been able to stand in front of you telling you to do this. But I made the decision back then that I had to find a new job and the only way I could do it was to Network. This started me on the path of building a great Circle of Contacts and as a result, my sales career has been far more rewarding than I could have ever expected.
Networking is the “Act of finding, developing and nurturing relationships that can mutually move people forward thru life.”
Take your networking to Whole Nother Level – and I can almost promise it will help move you forward thru life sooner than you can imagine right now.