The Awful Truth about Networking

Whether building a business or seeking your next career opportunity, a challenge for many people is building their network. It takes time, and as it grows, it becomes a tremendous asset.

Of course, the starting point to building your contact list is to ask people you know for the names of people they know. But not everyone understands that this a central part of networking–especially those who don’t actively network in their jobs. This begs the question: What is Networking?

You have heard quite a bit about networking here on Market Leadership Journal. However, the essence of it is very simple and does not require hundreds of pages of explanation.

Networking is:
+ Sharing knowledge, resources, and contacts
+ Receiving advice and assistance from people you know
+ Giving advice and assistance to people who know you
+ Leveraging your time for increased productivity
+ Seeking out and building long-term, prosperous relationships

On the other hand, networking is NOT:
– Selling something
– Receiving a job
– Seeking monetary compensation, donations, or funding
– A business transaction
– Manipulating others

Getting back to the notion of sharing contacts, this can involve risk. I mean, let’s face it. What am I really doing when I give a complete stranger (or brand new acquaintance) a friend’s name and tell them to use me as a reference?

I am putting my reputation on the line. What happens if my friend hires this person, who then turns out to be unreliable and untrustworthy? How does that make me look? That can be a difficult situation to be in. I have to admit, I have met people whom I would not want using my name as a reference when calling upon a friend, associate or colleague. And I am generally a pretty trusting fellow.

While some people are more trusting than others, this gets down to what I sometimes call the “awful truth” about networking:

Not everyone you meet is necessarily going to feel comfortable putting you in touch with everyone they know.

Further, you shouldn’t expect them to. After all, with a new acquaintance, the two of you just met. Sure, the contact may have your resume or other company information. He might even really know the person who gave you his name. Yet still, there is something missing: a deeper familiarity…an element of trust…a relationship.

So, what does this mean to you? How do you turn a new contact into a real relationship? We will explore that question in more detail moving forward. However, to gain a better understanding, review the points above about what the process is, and what it isn’t. Ask yourself, “How does this compare with how I have defined networking?”

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