Why Networking Works: You Already Have the Resources You Need...You Just Have to Put Them to Work
The scientist John Milgram developed a theory called the “small world theory.” Dr. Milgram’s theory suggests that everyone in the world is separated from everyone else by just six contacts. Dr. Milgram did a series of famous experiments that proved his theory. This theory has not only been proven but strengthened by a more recent study in which e-mail was used. This experiment found we are separated by just 4.5 contacts. Furthermore, if you use the social Internet site LinkedIn, you can see how this is possible by the raw numbers of third-level contacts. The implication for networking is profound even if you were to actively network with only a tiny fraction of the potential you are capable of reaching. Each network contact you have is likely already networked, which, given the proper approach, care, and feeding, means your contacts should grow by some multiple.
The key phrase here is “the proper approach, care, and feeding.” Your network is available for you to enrich your professional and personal life, but in return you must enrich the lives of others.
We get very upset when we hear someone say, “It’s time to start looking for a job. I better start networking.” Or “I only network at certain meetings or events.” Networking is a skill, and like any personal skill, it needs to be practiced to be perfected.
You can’t just sit down at a piano once a month and play Bach concertos like they are supposed to be played, nor can you network properly on occasion or on demand just whenever the need might arise. Networking really is a simple five-step process, but even though the process is simple to define, the work is hard. The following five-step process is available in Appendix A:
- Step 1: Meet People. You have to mix it up and get to know them. In Chapter 3, “Creating Connections: The People You Need in Your Network,” you consider examples of “breaking the ice” introductory phrases that you can use or adapt for your own style.
- Step 2: Listen and Learn. People like to talk about themselves and/or their company. When you actively listen, you learn about what is important to them, who they are, how you could help them, and how they could help you. In Chapter 5, “When Networking Doesn’t Come Easy: Networking for Introverts,” you explore the difference between real empathetic listening (when you engage in active and responsive listening) and listening in which you are just “hearing” what was said.
- Step 3: Make Connections. Help people connect with others you know can help them.
- Step 4: Follow Up. Keep your promises; keep your word. If you promise to do something, do it in a timely manner. In Chapter 7, “Keeping Your Network Alive and Growing,” you see an easy-to-use method for helping you follow up with contacts.
- Step 5: Stay in Touch. After an initial period of contact, if a result does not materialize, most people just move on. This is the point at which the Nierenberg System, which you will explore in detail, really works for successful networkers. These folks find ways to stay in touch and continue to build relationships. Why? Because their goal is to build a network of long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships, not just to get an immediate “result.” This five-step system works because it is based on building long-lasting relationships—those that are not just immediate, but lifelong.
“Networking” is one of the most overused and misunderstood words in common vocabulary today. When you hear the word, what comes to your mind?
- Getting something from someone else?
- Using others?
- Getting something without using your real abilities?
- Having a “godfather” or mentor who will smooth the way for you even if you are not capable or qualified?
- Making hundreds of daily short digital contacts on social networking sites?
Or do the following descriptions come to mind?
- Deserved enrichment
- Empowerment and influence
- The chance to learn something new and help others get what they want
- An opportunity to meet interesting people
- The best method to achieve a professional or personal goal
- The real world—the way more than 60 percent of jobs are filled
- The way people prefer to select prime candidates for choice competitive opportunities
You need to deal with the negative and inaccurate impressions of networking right now. In some of the negative impressions we listed, some people express a dark side of networking. It really isn’t even networking that is being discussed, but the dark side of human characteristics. Because some individuals abuse networking, others confuse that abuse with networking itself.
Networking is the most powerful tool individuals can use in their careers and lives. It should not come as any surprise that some people out there are not benevolent, gracious, nice, friendly, kind, fair, helpful individuals. Instead, you will find the occasional malevolent, malicious, spiteful, wicked, nasty, mean, power-hungry, self-centered, egotistical, narcissistic jerk.
These bad seeds can just as easily master the understanding of body language and fake networking techniques (fool some people for a short period of time) and/or use their genes, money, power (not influence), and even evil to get ahead.
Furthermore, people who advance solely on the coattails of a godfather or mentor are quickly seen as empty suits and frequently are abandoned or exiled, and they eventually will fail or wither away in ignominious insignificance. All these examples explain how networking gets an inaccurate and even a bad name.
What these evil people do is abuse power and employ treachery. They are not networking; they are power brokering or using power tactics instead of influence.
Networking is lifelong and beneficial to everyone who participates. It is a win-win proposition. Power brokering by its nature is a zero-sum political contest in which someone must win and someone must lose. In the long-run, an individual who practices power brokering creates a long list of enemies who will do anything they can to bring that person down. Unlike networkers, power brokers have few friends.
Real networkers gain the positive benefits listed earlier because they gain the help and assistance of an ever-growing number of people. If you are a little more technically minded, here is the actual formula for why networking is so successful if done properly.
There is a formula called Metcalfe’s law, named for Bob Metcalfe, the founder of 3Com. The law, which was created for computer networks and was applied to the Ethernet, applies just as well to social networks. It says that every time you add one more user (contact) to a network, you add value not only to that user but to every other user already there and to any other user who eventually joins.
The classic example of how this system works is the telephone. One telephone (one network contact) has almost no utility value as a network. You can’t call or contact or network with anyone else. However, the second telephone adds significant value to the first and the second because networking can now take place. The third, fourth, and so on add more and more value to all current telephones plus all new telephones (contacts) that are added.