Network = Net worth
Updated: Feb 9, 2019
“If you want 1 year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want 100 years of prosperity, grow people”.
There is an unfortunate truth that life is unequal, unfair and sometimes unjust. Disparities exist within society, socially, culturally, economically and academically. Yet there are individuals who are prospering and making significant progress in their lives despite the inherent challenges that they may encounter.
The old adage that states “it’s not what you know but who you know” still resonates today. Networking socially, physically or virtually has become synonymous today and is perceived as a critical skill and tool to access people, organisations and opportunities that you would not have ordinarily had access to, unless you had an extended and dynamic network.
Nepotism and Cronyism are two forms of preferential treatment extended to friends and family, particularly surrounding opportunities (employment, business opportunities, contracts, promotions). I would contend that there is a new progressive phenomenon, which I would characterise as network-ism. The ability to gain an undue favourable advantage based on one’s relationship and belonging to a group who have similar interests, goals, beliefs and/or values.
Networking as a universal concept has always been critical for business professionals, whether it involves exchanging business cards at an event, seminar or conference, or meeting prospective clients or colleagues in the local bar. Networking is particularly important socially, politically, economically and technologically. It enables you to discover opportunities and to exploit them simultaneously. It gives you access to resources and information, opportunities, people and insights which enables you to derive a competitive advantage.
The interconnected relationship that co-exists not only to generate new clients but also to build an assortment of expertise and professional resources that you can utilise to help you develop as an individual, a company or an organisation.
The more developed your network, the greater the opportunities you will have access to, which means there is a greater probability that you will be able to convert those opportunities into something more tangible and shorten the odds of success. As a direct result of your network, your net worth potential increases exponentially.
Networking is an invaluable tool and a skill which can be acquired. However, there are some basic principles that will aid your networking, which are discussed in key actions.
Networking can be categorised as being either reactive or proactive. Proactive is a deliberate intention to find groups, individuals or organisations that you believe will create potential opportunities for you and where you feel that you can add value. The reactive nature of networks is the unintended encounters where you discover or meet a person or an organisation of interest by chance. Opportunities may not be immediate but the people that you meet may be able to introduce you to another person or open future access to an opportunity that would not have been available had you not met. Networking does not have to have an immediate outcome, it may be a longer-term objective such as moving jobs within the next couple of years or a business opportunity in the future, and the person you have met may be able to help, influence or direct you.
Ready and waiting
Networking is not always prescriptive or planned, quite often it’s random. Ensure that you are ready and prepared, have your business card available, pen and paper. In the unlikely event that you do not have these on the odd occasion, ask the other person for their business card. Never be afraid to ask as this could potentially be a great opportunity walking away.
The brand called you
Tom Peters suggested that “we are all CEOs of our own company and today the most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called you”. The basic premise of personal branding is that everyone has one and within a competitive marketplace personal branding is regarded as the differentiator between competitors. When you have an interaction with someone new, remember your personal brand is important, it’s what they will remember about you!
Get up & stand out
When an opportunity presents itself to the network you must be courageous and confident, don’t be afraid to get up from where you are and go to speak to the person that you would like to connect with. This may be the opportunity that you are looking for and it could potentially have life-changing consequences.
It’s a numbers game
At any event, try to identify who you want to talk to and why, have clear goals and objectives. Remember there are many people to talk to at networking events, focus on the people or organisation that will yield the greatest return on your investment of time. The more of the right people that you speak to will increase your chances of success.
Hearing vs Listening
Listening is a complex and dynamic process. It is nuanced, prone to ambiguity and incongruity. It can be characterised as either active or passive listening. Both types are inherently different and have features that distinguish one from the other. Passive listening is regarded as hearing, whilst active listening refers to listening to understand and interpret what has been said. When you are an active listener you will be able to recognise and decode what is being communicated in a coherent manner.
Research and be fully aware of what you want to achieve by networking. When you meet a new person ask open questions to understand what they do, what’s their interest, understand the circle of influence, what are their goals and objectives, and determine if you can help them. If you want to get help from another person, in the first instance determine if you can help them achieve their goals.
Unique selling point (USP)
Each one of us has something that is unique and compelling about us, however we do not always communicate our unique selling point (USP). Whenever you get the opportunity, highlight your strengths and what’s compelling about you so that you will be remembered.
Social, Physical, Email & Telephone networking
Understand who you want to network with and why. Conduct your research both online and offline, decide who you want to connect with, what industries, what positions (HR managers, buyers, procurement, directors) and use all the tools at your disposal (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, seminars, conferences, meetings, social events).
React, respond and interact with your network frequently, build your relationship by building confidence and trust. If you see an article or something that will be of interest to someone in your network, send it to them and demonstrate that you have their interest at heart as well as your own.
Once the networking is done, if you use someone’s name to get a job or take someone’s suggestions on board it is worth letting the person know (you took that business card for a reason!).
Remember that your Network = your Net-worth
Dr Carlton Brown