Posted on 7 September 2010

Networking: Build It Before You Need It – Every day

I’m currently reading Who’s Got Your Back by Keith Ferazzi (Amazon), the follow-on to Never Eat Alone (see previous posts Enjoy the Interview and Don’t Keep Score), so an article he wrote systematizing your networking jumped out at me.

“Build it before you need it.”
“That was one of the most important operating principles in
Never Eat Alone – the idea that building your network and deepening relationships shouldn’t – in fact, CAN’T – be a machine that you fire up when you suddenly need a new job. Putting time and energy into relationship building should be a lifestyle constant…”

I completely agree with this.

In-fact, it’s one of the saddest things I often deal with as I work with job-seekers and people who feel they need to up-level their career–they have NO network. Often, they DID have a network (the last time they went networking) or when they left school, but time and distractions put cobwebs on the linkages in their professional networks… people who once were trusted colleagues you could turn to for anything are now passing acquaintances.   Nobody dislikes each other… its just that nobody really knowseach other any more. So, when the “hey, I need help” phone call comes, its awkward and tense… and the person on the other end can usually do little-more than maybe send off an email or make a phone call or two.

People in this situation are forced to cozy up to recruiters like me or start dropping lots of phone calls on their former friends and colleagues with pushy requests for help.  It’s a guaranteed way to burn more bridges than you build. Who likes being part of a transaction?

The reality is, when Networking is reduced to slimy shake-my-hand-and-i’ll-shake-yours “networking functions” there is little to be loved about it. It sucks. People hate it. It’s simply unnatural. But, if you create processes and a “lifestyle” around your networking that actually enables your engagement with real people–a community–you will find that getting to know people (and GIVING to them) is actually quite redeeming, and thrilling. This is why my Social Network “Follow Policy” states that I only connect with people I actually know–because influence (meaning depth of relationship and valued connection) makes your Network… not the number of connections you have.

Here’s where Ferazzi’s system comes in. These are simple and easy.  Let me know how it goes!

Here are five ideas to inspire your own personal “Relationship Rituals” checklist:?

1. First thing every day after you turn on your computer, ping one friend and one acquaintance.
2. Every weekend, invite someone else into an activity that you normally do alone (walks, gym sessions, gardening, shopping trips).
3. Pick a day for a weekly check-in with a colleague/associate/friend, during which you share a success, a challenge, and make a commitment for the upcoming week.
4. Every Friday, send a broadcast – status update, blog post, Tweet, etc.
5. Host a monthly dinner or happy hour.

Ultimately, everyone’s list of rituals will be unique, customized to your specific network, goals, and lifestyle. The important thing is that every week, hell or highwater, you’re acting on them.

1 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Robert Merrill Says:

    Networking Tip: I often send out weekly “network maintenance” emails to people I met the previous week. LinkedIn’s Monday Updates email usually triggers that in my mind. It’s super easy. In my invitations to connect, I say something personal like, “It was great to meet you last Thursday. Let’s stay connected. If there’s anything I can do for you, please do not hesitate to ask!”

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