A new way to think about networking

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Networking is about building reciprocal, synergistic relationships with people throughout your organization, your business community, and your life says Marsha Egan

Our ability to network can help us succeed. After all, we don’t live in a vacuum, and people need each other to accomplish their goals and tasks. A lot of people groan when they think about the need to build their networks. Here are some thoughts that can change your perspective, and help you enjoy building that network.

To start – Instead of thinking about a network, let’s envision a net.

If you place yourself at the center of this net, you can see how your direct links, or connections, extend outward.  And each of those links extends outward as well.  Yet they are all interconnected.  This is what we want our net to look like, and even more, to “work.”

I meet too many people who believe or act as though their tasks and challenges are all direct one on one transactions with their co-workers, prospects and customers.  What they don’t realize is that when they build a network, much of the creativity, selling and prospecting can actually be enhanced by other people. A network helps you multiply yourself.

In my networking workshops, I ask the question, “How many friends and acquaintances, conservatively, do you think you have?”  The answer usually ranges between 200 and 500.  My next question is, “How many people do you think each of those people know?”  Then we do the math.  Conservatively, if each of these people knows only 200 people, that person is “connected” to 40,000 people, only one person removed!  Just imagine the numbers with the second and third levels of connection!

So the first hurdle to overcome in building a network is to recognize how powerful connections can be.  This is the very important people side of the business that many have a hard time acknowledging or understanding.

In any business or organization, there are relationships to be built.  These enable positive progress.  We call these relationships a network.  People’s careers rarely progress solely through individual work; there are usually several people involved in an individual’s successful career.

Many people cringe at the suggestion of “networking.”  They feel that they may be building insincere relationships or compromising their true selves by rubbing shoulders with higher-ups in the organization.  So, out of principle, some very capable people don’t network.

So, let’s set the record straight.  Networking is not about collecting business cards.  It is not about pretending to like someone that you don’t.  It is not about catering insincerely to a boss or potential clients.

Networking is about building reciprocal, synergistic relationships with people throughout your organization, your business community, and your life.  It is caring about others’ progress more than you care about your own.  It is establishing trustful, supportive bonds with people who share your goals, or your business goals.

The powerful side of building this network comes with your delivering excellent quality and service.  As you build your network, and you provide great service, your network will start to work for you.  People will talk to people.  Your reputation will be shared. Your net will actually work.

So, when we look at networking as a sincere effort to build mutually beneficial relationships, it can actually be fun!  When you take the focus off of yourself, and place it on others, your whole picture of building relationships can change.  You become other directed, rather than selfish.  You become caring rather than self — absorbed.  You become interesting rather than boring.  Doesn’t this sound better?

This approach puts a different focus or in how you can build and enjoy your networks.  Instead of collecting as many business cards as you can, you can give yourself permission to have one or two lengthier, other-focused conversations with people at a networking event.

“Other focused” is a key word in this equation.  If you show a true interest in the other person, and avoid trying to talk about yourself in the first several minutes of the conversation, you will go a long way to building what can be a mutually beneficial (and even fun) relationship.

And the more sincere, and helpful you are, and the better quality you deliver, the more mutually beneficial your network will be.  Yours will be a net that really works!

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About Author

Marsha Egan

Marsha Egan, CPCU, PCC is CEO of The Egan Group, a Nantucket, Massachusetts-based workplace productivity coaching firm. She is author of Inbox Detox and the Habit of E-mail Excellence. She can be reached at [email protected] or www.MarshaEgan.com. To see Marsha’s blog, visit www.MarshaEgan.com/blog and to listen to her podcast, “Great Points” visit her iTunes channel.

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