What is a Network?
A network is a group of people with links to one another. These links are most common through work, career activities, family, neighbors, friends, community, religion - the list keeps going on. An aspect that clearly defines and differentiates the connections in your network is the support system. People in the same network lend support, give advice, and are available for friendship and help. Think of it as a circle within many other circles that are often connected by influencers who know one another through your network.
Your network is constantly flowing with the sharing of information, ideas, contacts, and common experiences. The more attention you give to your network, the more powerful the sharing of information becomes - leading to more connections and fulfilling relationships.
Like an atom, a network requires activity to create cause & effect. Activity generates an action that will lead to a chain of activity for all the network members. It starts with communication - the power of your network.
The most profound communication comes in the form of being a resource; being proactive by looking for ways to pass along what you know to your network circle. As the center of your network, you have many resources to exchange, share, and pass along to others in your circle. Reaching out will strengthen your relationships, enhance the power of the exchange of information, and will lead to more fulfilled experiences in your daily life.
Have you ever been in a restaurant with a friend and run into someone you know? Sure you have... And of course, it was natural for you to make an introduction. Guess what? You just planted a seed for a new relationship. The next time this happens, let's say you run into a friend and are introduced to someone with your friend, foster the connection by asking that new acquaintance a few simple questions such as "What do you do for a living?" or "How do you two know each other?" or "Do you live around here?" That introduction can and often will lead to a potential new member of your networking circle.
If you are the one making the introduction, take the initiative to add more to further the conversation - like a short background of how you know each other or how the two should get together in the future. Because you are the common denominator for all the people in your network, you have the opportunity to create links between people. Your network becomes even stronger when people in your network know one another and do business or socialize with each other.
The exchange of business cards is an important element to networking because it is how people will get in contact with you. Never forget to swap business cards, then follow up with a note or a telephone call. We all appreciate being remembered and recognized. I find it more beneficial to collect business cards verses handing out cards. Some people are better at follow up than others. I know that I DO follow up and having that control leads to better relationship building. I'm not suggesting that you do not hand out your card… but remember to get the card. If the new acquaintance does not have a card, ask for the email and telephone number and write it down. Make a notation on the card of how you met, who introduced you, and the point of the next contact. For example, you might be having a conversation about restaurants in your neighborhood, so make that note so the follow up is clear and meaningful.
Characteristics of a good networker.
To make the most of networking opportunities, here are 5 guidelines to follow:
- Be alert. Opportunities are all around. Pay attention when someone is speaking, find the common ground or potential growth factor.
- Be informed. Stay current with the relevant topic of conversation. For example, at a political convention learn about the politics prior to the event. When attending a motor bike rally, learn about the latest models of bikes, etc. Being knowledgeable about the network event you are attending doesn't take much homework; it can lead to extraordinary conversations, resulting in establishing new and deeper relationships.
- Listen more than you speak. There is a reason we have two ears and one mouth. Listen and be ready to act on opportunities where you might be able to help someone. Smile when listening. Don't look away when you are spoken to and stay alert while engaged in conversation. Your attitude and attentiveness is evident each and every time we engage in conversation.
- Be consistent. You will find that it helps to be consistent in your demeanor and personality. People feel comfortable and learn to trust when they know what to expect.
- Be respectful. When we treat others the way we expect to be treated, we gain respect and can leverage that respect to form a more powerful network of trusted connections. Be considerate. Each of us has personal preferences. Though we may not always agree on specific ideas, it is vital to respect someone's point of view.
Be aware of the network you already have and how vast and powerful it can be when utilized effectively. Because of the many strengths, skills, information, contacts, and expertise that you have to offer others (and that others have to offer you), your network can generate a multitude of opportunities for yourself and others. Building relationships takes skills that we all possess.
Building relationships is also habitual. The habit of giving and growing your network becomes easier the more you interact and work on it. We know that networking is about making connections but an obvious, and often overlooked point, is that networking is also about building enduring, mutually beneficial relationships.
Do you have stories of successful relationships born from bumping into acquaintances? Share below on how you maintain and build those relationships.