Eight tips on Networking
I must be one of only a few people who doesn’t have Boris Johnson’s telephone number. The truth is as an ardent introvert I have let my networking really slip, at a time when I need it the most. After a few radical life changes, it feels like a good time to surface from the deep and start searching for a network to be plugged into. Before I start a series of Deadpool 2 interviews with prospective members, I need to make a plan.
Don’t go it alone
The first rule of networking is – form a network. We all need challenge, stimulation, information, renewal, and laughter, sometimes even ridicule. Most of this is pretty hard to achieve on your lonesome. If you’re lazy like me, you can get a real boost to your networking campaign – by connecting to super connectors. You know those info super-spreaders, who have an octopus-like reach of multiple contacts across the globe.
In the past, I have deliberately tried to network with, unlike minds. Although I came from a social science background I’ve always been fascinated by engineers and still learn a lot from my colleagues and friends within this industry. Particularly with their superior planning skills which I would covet from a distance, and exchange for insights on management thinking in a quid pro quo kind of relationship. The crucial thing was they thought differently to me and that was invaluable.
In networking diversity is important. Mixing with people from other professions and sectors is helpful to try to get a sense of what’s going on in other industries and help your futurist thinking. But also think about age and different ethnic groups, challenge yourself to be curious, and tap into new information through cross-cultural mentoring.
However, I also hear it’s good to have diversity in the source of your network i.e., don’t always draw water from the same well. Some of my best contacts have come from colleagues on training programmes and formal courses. However, I’ve also made great connections in church too.
When networking, think about people who have a positive effect on you, and who actually care about how you are doing. Whether we “believe” or not, we may all have a reason to tap into the spiritual side of things when reality gets a little bit too real?
Networking used to be all about getting business contacts, career opportunities, and intelligence from trusted sources. The last 18 months have felt a bit like the Hunger Games where the objective is just trying to make sense of the stuff that doesn’t make sense and survive.
Bold dissenting voices
From a personal development perspective, I’ve always preached to my clients and anyone who would listen that it’s good to have members of your network who are not afraid to take you down a peg or two. So why not aim for your own personal Dragons Den ring of fire.
My friends are very good at making light of my misgivings and my failings (family-friendly terminology in use here) and believe me, humility can be a real antidote to negatively self-talking your way into the psychiatrists’ chair. (I actually do have a psychiatrist in my network. This may be evidence of the risk management thinking of my Engineer buddies rubbing off on me).
In these times of Covid -19 when we are and spending a huge amount of time stuck indoors, networking with people who are real energisers is crucial. I have a great friend overseas who leaves me buzzing with a long to-do list of new commitments and fresh perspectives every time we speak.
It’s not all about craft beer and back slaps. We can be strategic in our networking. I would recommend drafting up a networking map and thinking about what you are trying to achieve in the different areas of your work and broader life and try to zero in on areas where you have weak connections and formulate a mini-marketing plan about how you can cover these gaps and reach out to people in our new virtual world.
Don’t just be a taker
Don’t be too transactional in your networking relationships. Giving of your time, listening deeply, encouraging others, coaching, and mentoring is not just good for others it will boost your wellbeing too. Think about the younger people in your wider community – many of whom have endured a huge impact from the fallout of the pandemic. Why not share your talents and give something back?
So, forget all notions of being a lone wolf, channel your inner Portuguese Man of War and float with a network.