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Nuances of Networking: A Savvy Approach for the Next Century
By Susan RoAne   Printer Friendly Version

So, you think "networking" is a new phenomenon? a growing trend? a buzz word? Well, it has existed since time immemorial. Proof: "No room at the inn? Can you recommend a barn ... with a manger?" Sound familiar?

Referrals, recommendations and shared information is the foundation upon which civilization has been built. The community concept is built on communication. We just need to remember that civility is crucial in networking. How we behave is as crucial as knowing the unwritten rules which must be followed.

As one of my clients raised on a farm said, "Susan, we always networked. We just called it being neighborly'." Historically, barn-raisings are the ultimate networking event.

You hammer a lot more than your point across! And, careers have always depended upon networking: the assistance of others.

There are myths about networking that must be set straight. Networking is NOT a work style; it is a LIFEstyle that can enhance our personal and professional lives.

Myth: I don't have a network.

Truth: Everybody has a network. We are born into one, went to school with several: grammar, high, college, religious.

Lived in neighborhoods

Served in armed forces

Belong to clubs, bands, teams, fraternities/sororities, service organizations

Action: Know who you know.

Even I don't have a 100 percent grasp, but as events happen, I remember people I know. Go through the periods of your life, the class photos and yearbooks. Visualize your neighborhoods and neighbors. List the names of people you remember. Think about the jobs you've had. Who were your colleagues, co-workers, competitors, vendors? You may want to do the activity on your computer, if you are so inclined. Or, like myself, with paper and pencil. Go through old address books, Christmas card and holiday lists. And, don't forget the people who are in the periphery of your life, yet are a great source: cleaner, barber/hairstylist, mechanic, computer consultant, carpool cronies, local merchants. You will not remember everyone at the first sit-down. Once it is plugged into your truly personal computer (your brain), you will begin to remember more - add names to the list.

That list is a reference tool. How we use it is as important and when and for whom. It may be to connect a nephew with a potential mentor. Or a colleague with a great mechanic. It is NOT always about us.

In time of need, people band together and help. We see it after earthquakes, fires, floods, when friends are stricken with illness. People are generally nice.

Myth: People should know what you need and offer to help.

Most people are happy to help when they are asked. At a marketing seminar we gave at the Chamber of Commerce over a decade ago, one attendee said that he was disappointed because other people often didn't assist/help/return a favor. He asked, "Shouldn't people know what I need?"

Truth: Most people don't know what they need - how can you assume they know what you need! A tenet of life and networking:

If you don't ask, the answer is always no.

RoAne Rule: How you ask may make the difference between yes and no!

Yes, Grandma was right. It is often HOW you say it, not WHAT you say.

The best of networkers ask in a way that allows people to say yes - and gives them room to say no.

One of my favorite cartoons had a character explaining: "What I lack in know-how, I made up for in know who." Who we know, and who knows us, is key. How to relate to and converse with those people determines the quality of our connections.

People want to be treated as people not as contacts!

The best of networkers don't even know that they are networking - they just do: refer, match, recommend, bring people together like - Yenta, the Networker.

Myth: Networking is using people.

Truth: Networking is a reciprocal process.

It is mutually beneficial where we give and receive and share ideas, information, leads, referrals, support and tickets to cultural and sporting events, and laughter with enthusiasm, support and joy. Science has a term for it, which applies to networking: interdependence. Our grandparents had a better word: Helping.

Action: Assess the postings in your "favor bank."

List the people for whom you have done favors. (This may be tough because many of us give our favors without strings, and it could just feel unseemly. Do it anyway!) Why? Because most people want to clear the slate!

List the people who have done favors for you. Whose advice have you sought? Called to check out someone or something? Taken you out for beers, lunch, had an extra seat to the soccer game or symphony. Or like Ben Franklin, when he wanted to made a friend, who has loaned you a book? By the way, did you return it?

Know who you know. Know who you owe.

"Networking is not using others; it s a process of utilizing sources and resources and being one yourself," according to the late Sally Livingston, "femtor" and a pioneer networking advocate.

Myth: I don't have much to offer, so I can't get involved.

Truth: We all have something to offer!

Our skills, interests, avocation, hobbies. While no one has ever asked me for a recipe, I can offer information on great restaurants and take out! And, tips on the publishing and professional speaking world.

Action:

  1. List the things that you do well in your job. You may be an ace at internet research, a whiz at strategic planning, drafting proposals or organizing the after-work bowling team or relay teams for corporate games. Have you mentored others? How?
  2. List your hobbies: quilting, fly fishing, rappelling (a sport aptly named!), hiking, biking, car renovations, woodworking, antiquing, gourmet cooking. Maybe you are a great wordsmith or brainstormer!

Knowing what we do well allows us to know what and how to contribute and gives us the confidence to know that we can!

RoAne's Rules: Build your Rolodex™. The Rolodex™ is a metaphor for the base of business and personal contacts and relationships that you have just by being on the planet. Value those contacts and treat people well. And your network will enhance your work . . . and life.

The Ten Commandments of Connecting

  1. Acknowledge the gifts from others leads, presents, ideas, information, support. Send handwritten thank you notes. We all want recognition and to be appreciated.
  2. Stay in touch when you need nothing from others phone, fax, e-mail, U.S. mail, and ... in person.
  3. Be generous ... share ideas, thoughts, support, time and laughter with others.
  4. Be involved ... be seen on the scene.
  5. Pick up a tab and treat someone to their lunch or latte!
  6. Observe the etiquette of and (un)written rules for networking (The Secrets of Savvy Networking, Warner Books).
  7. "Good mouth" others pass on praise you have heard.
  8. Keep your sources in the loop; let them get the news from you!
  9. Follow up, follow up, follow up in a Timely and Appropriately Persistent (TAP) manner.
  10. Have Fun! Life is too short and too long to do otherwise.

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