The Problem With Networks and Networking
I’m not a huge fan of the terms “network” or “networking”. I utilize them because you identify and understand what I mean by those words. At least I hope you do.
Your “network” is the collection of people with whom you maintain communicative and reciprocal relationships.
“Networking” is then the establishing, creation, AND growth of those relationships.
And this is where people get the process wrong and why I dislike these terms.
Network is a static item. A fixed idea of the collection of something.
And networking, for many people, really only refers to the initial meet and greet.
Neither of these terms actively identify and remind us of 2 things:
- These are relationships with people, and
- They require cultivation!
Those are hugely important.
How many “networking events” or “networking groups” have you been to? Personally I’ve been to at least a hundred. Some I attended week after week seeing the same faces hand out the same business cards. I watched as everyone went through the same routine of handshake, introduce, business card, move on.
These events are supposed to help business!?!? All that’s happening there is machinations.
Few real relationships start here and even fewer grow here. Nothing about a handshake and a business card help to create a real, lasting, productive relationship. There is no “easy way” or “quick fix” for creating strong relationships.
Real Relationships Take Effort
They require mindfulness and tending.
I am a huge proponent of understanding, reciprocal relationships. Finding people with whom there is a mutually beneficial opportunity within the relationship (or even a mutual lack of reciprocal requirement!)
So you know that you have to be reciprocal. What else do you need?
I watch people collect those business cards in bulk and wonder how people expect to grow an honest relationship with all of those people.
Growing relationships with even one new person demands TIME AND EFFORT. That’s why I don’t believe you can attend these “networking” events and immediately establish and grow meaningful relationships quickly.
You have to have the capacity to grow the relationship. You can’t interact with 30 new people all at the same time and still focus appropriately on your work.
What you can do!
Instead I find it better to focus on the right relationships to your success and to engage consistently.
Set your sights on a couple of new contacts at a time. Think carefully about who (or what type) you want relationships with and make a list.
As the relationship moves forward, value is added, and reciprocity established you can target new relationships while maintaining the old.
Having a plan and systems in place to help you target, grow, and maintain them is paramount.
Otherwise you’ll just end up with a stack of business cards in your desk.