Academic Research Provides Insights
I just read an academic blog about networking that quoted past and current studies on the art of influence, loose ties, and the mistake of thinking it's a numbers game. (Followers, friends and linkedin lines). Those who think networking is a numbers game- whether online or off line- miss the point. If we listen to the backstories of how people got to where they are, we learn that serendipity/"you never know" factors abound. Very few careers are a straight shot; most have winding, unplanned forks in roads they decided or were forced to follow for various reasons.
Our Preference For "Important" Contacts
I'm concerned because people are so intent on cultivating and "leveraging" strategic contacts, The Big Kahunas, that they ignore those they know whose title may not be, what I call "C Sweet enough". These are people who know others we don't know and to whom we could be connected if we are open, clear about our needs/issues and let ask for help.
The Right Approach/Ask for Help
Having just returned from a wonderful trip that ended with few days on my own in Paris, I benefitted from the kindness of strangers. Going from the Marais to Sacre Coeur and back to Place du l'opera, even with the excellent directions of my Paris-based nephew, I fortunate to find my way on the Metro, buses and through neighborhoods with the assistance of many locals who I asked for help (in enthusiastic, but imperfect, French). People were wonderful and even walked me to where I needed to be! We think that, in some cosmic sense, it was the ROI for all the times I've seen people with maps in San Francisco and offered directions, suggested restaurants and sites to see. Maybe not. It may be that people are nice and will help, if asked….nicely.
The Chicago Code
The essence of networking was captured in an episode of Chicago Code about avoiding a potential parking fine: "I know a guy who knows a guy." I'm a born and bred Chicagoan (in the city, not some fancy suburb) and that line said it all to me.
This speaks to the need to have diverse networks which I suggested even before I wrote about savvy networking. If everyone looks and sounds the same and has similar interests, education, skills and experiences, we are missing the proverbial boat and access to "knowing a guy ( or gal) who knows the guy".
Know Who You Know
In The Secrets of Savvy Networking, I created a chart to be filled in of those loose, but potentially, influential categories of people we know, but too often forget we know, because they do not hold a significant position or job title. We all know people in these categories (mechanic, dry cleaner, barber, etc) and they have networks of people with whom they are in contact daily and could share. My manicurist introduced me to another client who arrived early for her appointment and that turned into a speaking engagement for me because we both talked to her and she is a great listener/matchmaker/networker. We must talk to the people who are our service providers as they are superb sources and resources.
Our success at creating and nurturing networks often boils down to some age-old wisdom:
1. Don't judge a book by it's cover (or people by their title/position).
2. Be nice to everyone. (It's a part of what's now called "reputation management").
3..Stay in touch. (both online and off line).
Relationships happen over time, not overnight.