“Networking is defined as establishing a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship of give and take, with the emphasis on the give.” Bob Burg, “Endless Referrals” (lecture, East Elmhurst, NY, October 22, 2008).
This is a good definition for the following reasons:
- Relationships are to be established for the long term, throughout your college years and business career.
- Relationships should be mutually beneficial because such relationships are more likely to be sustained.
- Relationships in networking emphasize the give versus the take. This may not seem intuitive because we network to get a job—right? Wrong. Focusing only on getting a job gives networking and you a bad reputation. Focusing on the other person’s interests and pursuits will build a network for you that will always be there when you need something.
Another truth in networking is that the more you give, the more you will get. A genuine quality of giving will separate you from other networkers. Being genuinely interested in finding out about a person and wanting to know them well enough to positively affect their career, their lives, and their interests is a huge differentiator.
Quality, Not Quantity. Networking is not about quantity; it is about quality. We all know more people than we realize and we have numerous opportunities to meet new people every day. Just do not forget that after you meet someone unless you maintain and expand that relationship, that person is not really part of your core network. Networking is not just about approaching people; it is about following up.
The Power of Networking. People naturally want to network with people who they know, like, and trust. Once these criteria have been met, people will generally open their networks up to you.
It is a given that one person knows 250 people, give or take. Most people could invite about 250 people to their wedding and have approximately 250 visitors at their funeral.
If you know, like, and trust another individual, and therefore open your network up to that person, they will have access to a network of 500 individuals:
their 250 contacts + your 250 contacts = 500 contacts
- Multiply 500 by 10 people, and you will now have access to 2,500 individuals.
- Multiply 2,500 by 100 people, and you will now have access to 25,000 individuals.
- Multiply 25,000 by 250 people, and you will now have access to 625,000 individuals.
Your need to know 250 people might be intimidating, but let us start with about 100 people you may know:
- Schoolmates (fraternity, sorority, athletes, classmates)
- Professors, teaching assistants, school administrators, coaches
- Past and current coworkers
- School reunion attendees
- Owners of neighborhood businesses (deli, coffee shop, dry cleaners, hardware stores, and so forth)
- People with whom you have volunteered
- People from a religious organization to which you belong
- Societies you might want to join that provide information about careers that are meaningful to you (e.g., Public Relations Student Society of America, National Society of Hispanic/Black MBAs, Society of Human Resources Professionals, Society of Speech and Drama Professionals, Society of Tennis Medicine, Society of Pharmacists)
In addition to who you know now, this chapter will give you strategies for building more networking contacts. Some useful venues include the following:
- Family events (weddings, birthdays, barbeques, and so forth)
- Alumni events (great opportunities to network with professionals with whom you have something in common)
The power of networking is limitless. Most individuals will use LinkedIn.com to keep in contact with their networks. Some individuals are open networkers and will connect with anyone who wants to connect with them. Others will be more discriminating and connect only to those people they know well. Either way, it is a huge benefit to keep in touch with your contacts when they move from company to company and as they change e-mail addresses. It is estimated that Generation Y (anyone born between 1980-1995) will change jobs close to twenty times in their lifetime. Keeping in touch with individuals this way can be very convenient and beneficial.
The Benefits of Networking. Networking has countless benefits. Aside from the social benefits of building relationships and keeping in touch with friends and valued acquaintances, networking yields other advantages:
- You will have insider information before things are public knowledge. This could pertain to the right companies to join or the right departments to consider. Often, before jobs are even posted, your networking contacts can let you know of opportunities.
- You will have access to individuals you otherwise might never meet or get to know, and your reach will extend to opportunities others may not ever hear of.
- You will know news before it reaches the general public, thus increasing your credibility.
- You might get the opportunity to lead others in your field. You could participate in a panel discussion or on a task force.
Networking enhances our lives in many ways. You can meet interesting people who share their life experiences, you can gain access to information you may never have known, and you can have access to career opportunities that otherwise would be out of your reach. The more effectively you network, the more opportunities will be presented to you. This chapter will outline strategies to build and expand your network so those opportunities are within your reach.