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Networking Do’s and Don’ts

Did you read that headline and had a negative reaction? Do you still think networking is something grubby, underhand, scheming and against your values of honesty and integrity?

Well like most things there’s a wrong and right way to do something. Go into a networking opportunity with a ‘taking mentality’, a mindset of, “What can i get out of this lot for my own benefit?” then yes all those negatives apply.

Or you can choose a ‘giving mentality’, a mindset of, “I have something to offer some of the people in here. I just need to find who”. It’s an opportunity for a group of like minded people to support each other.

Really, what’s grubby about that?

But even if you get past your reticence, chances are you aren’t actually sure of how to network effectively. And that’s the other reason people give up on networking after having spent a lot of time and energy on it for not much return. There’s ground rules if you want to be an EFFECTIVE networker. I’ve listed them here.

Networks Cheat Sheet: Rules of Engagement

  • Networks need BREADTH and DEPTH; what shape is yours? “I” or “T” shaped? (It needs to be “T” shaped, deep contacts in one area and a spread of contacts across many – this is where opportunities live)
  • Earn credit – help others first; give don’t take (define what you have to offer first)
  • Think “mutual influence”, not “what can I get out of him/her”.
  • Don’t be lazy: Network UP and network OUT. Opportunity lies outside your comfort zone.
  • Networks require a plan these don’t grow naturally
  • “Network density”: % of people in your network who know each other, an imperfect measure but useful. Lower it is the less people know each other. Too high = too inbred. Aim for 40%.
  • Too inbred = echo chamber = confirmation bias & groupthink
  • Networks need constant renewing, they need to work for the future, not be a relic of our past (aka “Network lag”)!
  • Great networkers decrease the 4/6 degrees of separation rule
  • Work on the weak ties, on the edges. Academic research has proven the greatest opportunity lies on the edges – they are important because they come from outside your world
  • Are you a citizen of a network or a visitor? Citizens are at the front of the queue for opportunities
  • Don’t just show up, SPEAK UP – host a session, ask a question if speaking is too scary at first.
  • seek contacts outside your sector, find people TWO LEVELS above you, probably in a different area, raise your profile
  • Book Recommendation: “Where Good Ideas Come From”: ‘chance favours the connected mind’ ‘this is not the wisdom of the crowd but the wisdom of someone in the crowd. Its not that the network is smart it is that individuals get smarter because they are connected to the crowd’

Audit your THREE networks: Operational, Personal, Strategic

  1. Operational: allows you to get day to day work done, mostly internal, short term focus
  2. Personal: allows you to grow personally, professionally, have fun, mostly external. Do not underestimate power of your personal network, some may fall into strategic category
  3. Strategic: allows you learn, to built support for your ideas & gain influence, find mentors, future focused, your cheerleaders, attract opportunities, external and internal

People can move between your networks or be a member of more than one. A colleague may move from Operational to Personal. A long term friend may also become a Strategic contact as their career progresses (these are often the ones we overlook or don’t notice they have moved up)

List three strengths and three weaknesses for each and an action plan for each.

Networks need nurturing!

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