When I (re-) relocated to CA, I needed to rebuild my network from the ground up. It had been 15+ years since I lived and worked on the West Coast. There was no such thing as LinkedIn or Facebook to keep in touch with back then. I spent my first few months meeting with as many people as I could, no matter their background or connection to me or my work. I was introduced (through my aunt by marriage) to a consultant who specializes in late startup/early IPO compensation. Getting to know her gave me another contact I could refer if any of my clients ever needed that kind of expertise. She mentioned how she was getting so busy, she needed to hire more staff to help. The very next week, I was in contact with a former CIO I worked with, who introduced me to someone he worked with previously. This new contact had a background in both labor law and compensation. He also happened to be looking for new opportunities. I made the introductions on e-mail, and they were able to work together remotely for a while. Because he was on the East Coast and she was on the West Coast, they might not have otherwise met.
About a year ago, I was flying somewhere and my seatmate and I ended up chatting. We connected on social media thereafter. He works as a sound engineer, but also owns an IT consulting practice. We stayed in touch periodically. One day he asked whether I could refer anyone to his client. They were looking for a firm to help them develop a B2B marketing strategy. I made introductions to four different providers, all with very different strengths and approaches to their work. It gave me a great excuse to reconnect with those contacts, help someone out, and expand everyone’s networks at the same time.
Earlier this year, I was talking with agents and publishers about my upcoming book on Design of Work Experience. When it came to the contract negotiations with my publisher, I decided to seek some legal advice rather than go through an agent. It turned out to be a great decision, because I found a great lawyer. We connected through a former colleague who was a corporate attorney and whose wife (also an attorney) published a novel in the last few years. I was so impressed with his background and in awe of the advice I received. I would’ve never found him (or anyone of his caliber) if it weren’t for my network.
My consulting business is largely built through referrals within my network. It makes things a lot easier--they already know what I’m good at and how well I do it. I am somewhat of a “known quantity” instead of a stranger starting from scratch. This approach has worked so far, and I’m glad for it. When you look beyond the obvious fact that networking is a good business practice, there’s even more benefits to be had:
You build knowledge. Finding out about what other people are doing and how their business is evolving builds your own knowledge of industry and what’s going on. It leads to new paths one can pursue, or new people to meet and learn from. If you ask me, networking should be a huge part of learning and development efforts.
You know where you stand. Reaching out to your network gives you feedback—of your importance to them, the quality of your relationship, and how they feel about you. Those that value your relationship will be responsive and will seek you out. It also highlights for you where you might need to make more effort, or it gives you insight on where to “trim” or “prune” your network.
You build good karma, and you get good karma. Note here that they might not come from the same sources, but “what goes around comes around” as they say. I encourage those I coach to reach out and help others when they are feeling discouraged. Eventually, you’ll feel better and the universe will reward you for your good work. I enjoy being able to share my network with others, and I am willing to go the extra mile especially for those who do the same. All good stuff, all around.
You build your reputation. Your personal brand matters. It’s built by a combination of the tone you set through your actions and how others react to you. Building a great reputation ultimately leads to better opportunities. Networking is one way of building that reputation. Pretty logical stuff.
Everyone always says they should do a better job of networking, but they never have the time or bandwidth for it. I’ve learned that you really should build and nourish your network before you need it. You don’t want to be seen as the type that only calls when they are looking for something, so make the time and be generous. Pick up the phone, send that e-mail, or schedule that coffee to see how your network is doing. So what is your favorite networking story? Please feel free to share in the comments section.