We pointed out in the last article (The Awful Truth about Networking) that some people are more trusting than others. The fact is, not everyone you meet will feel comfortable putting you in touch with everyone they know. In such cases, there is something missing…an element of trust…a relationship.
Building relationships is the much deeper side to networking, and it is a little more challenging. It is also better and more powerful.
Through relationships, people know you as a person, not a name. Through ongoing interaction and involvement, people begin to know and understand you. They are aware of your strengths and weaknesses. They understand what’s important to you, not from what you communicate through your words, but through your actions. They have an understanding of the depth of your character.
When you are seeking opportunities, people with whom you have built strong relationships can give you as good a reference as your mother would, without the obvious bias. This takes time to develop. Further, it stresses quality over quantity. You can’t possibly chum up to every person you encounter. It is neither practical nor sincere.
Contacts and Relationships: The Two Faces of Networking
Let’s quickly review the main differences between building contacts and building relationships: the two faces of networking.
Building contacts is a short-term process. It usually focuses on trying to meet as many people in the shortest amount of time–to build the “power rolodex” if you will forgive the outdated reference. If a person you meet does not have an immediate need for your services, nor can they lead you to anyone else, there is little foundation for a long-term relationship.
Building contacts emphasizes quantity. Again, you are trying to collect as many names of people as possible. The more you collect, the deeper your network of contacts becomes.
Building contacts is based upon the age-old premise of “It’s not what you know but who you know (and who they know!).” It is strictly a numbers game.
On the other hand, building relationships is long term in nature. When starting your career and as you build it, you are taking active steps to prepare for the future. The people you meet and develop bonds with through the journey will hopefully be with you for the rest of your life.
Building relationships emphasizes quality. You can’t form deep relationships with every person with whom you come in contact. That should be, however, an underlying goal. Keeping this in mind will help you notice opportunities to nurture those relationships that are influential to your success.
Building relationships puts the “who you know” attitude into perspective. In reality, it is not just “who you know.” It often comes from three elements:
1. It is who you are (your integrity).
2. It is what you know and can do (your qualifications).
3. It is how well another individual knows you (your relationships).
So, it is who you know…but it is also who knows you! On that note, ask yourself, who among my list of contacts would I like to know me better? Make a list of five people you know, and contact them today. Begin moving beyond being a connection and begin to build a relationship.