Introduction to Networking 101, Part 2 of 3: The Where, When and Why of Networking

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Networking Bottom Line Up Front: Deliberate social interaction is another term for networking. We all network, but we can choose how deliberate we are about it. Once we know how to be deliberate we can apply our skills or not, but social interaction just gets better and better.

Where is networking done? Networking is done more or less all around us and it’s constant. Babies, children, husbands, wives, train passengers, bureaucrats, businessmen, salesmen, teachers, engineers. We all do it and we all do it more or less constantly depending on our needs and our own motivations. When it’s done poorly, or at the wrong time, in the wrong place or for the wrong motivation, it’s disastrous. Networking at a wedding when you should be attending to your own bride can have explosive consequences. It’s easy to imagine all the wrong ways to network.

Where should networking be done? Networking should only be done under appropriate circumstances. Tricky, huh? Like money, networking is only effective where it works. It only works if you do it consistently with a proper sense of self, place and time. OK. What this means is you set yourself up for failure if you network for the wrong things under the wrong circumstances. Now, you can learn to manage the variables, but broadly speaking, that’s the rule.

When do we network? If we are excited about what we are working on, we may network when we shouldn’t. We tend to share what we love, so if you are passionate about a product, an experience, a project, an idea, you may over sell and over network by doing too much at the wrong time. And, if you do it too much, any time can become the wrong time.

When should we network? Napoleon said he attributed some of his success to choosing the time and place of his battles. We should control variables carefully and a key variable is when we are choosing to network. Note the word choose, for we are wise to be deliberate.  We should network when the timing is right, the location is right, the purpose is well suited to the other person. Make those variables ideal and you’ll network well.

Why do we network? We network to get what we want or where we want, and if we aren’t careful we network to get what we want or where we want without much thought beforehand. If we don’t think it through beforehand we may find ourselves networking desperately to solve a simple problem. Think about when you may need a lawyer urgently when you know no lawyers. You quickly start to shake all the trees you know of to loosen up a lead on a lawyer… or a handyman or an auto mechanic. Frequently we network because we want someone we can trust and a chain of trust is a commodity that comes through personal contact. The key, here, is to build your network before you need it.

Why should we network? It depends on how much quality we want in our own lives. If we want a high quality in any area of life we should seek to bring high quality or value to others first. In service, in sales, in romance, in friendship, in all things. If we do that we will always be re-paid disproportionately (although sometimes it does take a little time to see the return but that’s ok because patience is also a key component to a successful, well lived and well-ordered life) and there is no better example of this than in networking. I read once that if you want a punch, throw a punch, if you want a smile, throw a smile and if you want money, put money out in circulation. I’m here to tell you it’s true. If you initiate an action in the world you will receive actions in return. If you develop a sophisticated approach to networking, you make friends, uncover hidden value, enrich others and are enriched, yourself. This is why we should network: to help others wherever we can and to enrich the life we lead. A good networking philosophy is to always bring more than the other guy and develop a reputation for being deliberate about that. Say to others, “My goal is always to bring at least 51% to the table. I hope you bring a lot so I can bring even more.”

If you want to turbo-charge your networking efforts, put them at the service of a we-choose-to-go-to-the-moon kind of goal and link them to plain old hard work and discipline. If you are setting huge goals for yourself (you should) and you seek to achieve those goals on a given schedule, bring as much value as you can to everyone you encounter and over time a tide of good things will start to happen.

Next week: How to network effectively.