Observing a highly networked person is like watching a pro tennis player rally their opponents to total exhaustion. It’s also like watching an Olympic swimmer compete against the worlds best to win a gold medal.
We are both inspired and oblivious to how much work went into those displays of greatness. And so it is with the world of networking. We are in awe of those who seem to know everybody, who is known by everybody and who one or two sentences deep into a brand new acquaintance, seems to know who that person should be connected to.
But what we don’t see, is the effort that goes into finessing relationships to the point of almost perfect equilibrium. We want what they have, but we don’t want to put in the effort.
Guess what. It requires effort. A lot of effort.
Now hearing the E word may tempt us to say, “well, I’m not a networker”, or “I am too authentic to put on a show for other people”, or “networkers aren’t genuine”. But I would slap your wrist right as you started pointing that finger of yours.
Effort requires belief. Belief requires something worthy. And worthiness requires a home. Now here’s the question, are you providing a home for worthiness? Yes, are you believing in yourself enough to make the effort to build out your network of humans? And if you aren’t believing in yourself, then why are you not worthy?
This may be a topic for another article.
In the meantime, there are a few touch points during our professional lives that give us an opportunity to build our network. Whether you believe in yourself, or count yourself worthy enough, will dictate how you respond to these touch points.
Let’s work through an easy list I like to call the IN list. Get it? 😀
Being on the receiving end of Introductions is an interesting barometer for how networked you are. The more connected you are, the more you’ll be introduced to people. It is an indication of the value that others see in connecting you with their people. How will they know what you have to offer if you are not counting yourself worthy of sharing what you know?
Be kind in your acknowledgement of the person introducing you. If they took a moment to include you into their network, then you take a moment to shine the light of kindness onto them.
Be super helpful to the person that you are introduced to. It doesn’t mean that you have to set up a call, but demonstrate that you’re willing to give them some of your time out of respect for the person who introduced you both to each other.
Take the time to give the person who made the introduction feedback on how the introduction went. This will build a stronger bond for the next time they make an introduction.
Invitations to events will fly your way and you’ll be faced with a choice every single time. Should I stay or should I go? Again, this requires careful consideration. It’s always easier to say no. There will always be a reason to stay. And even when you say yes, there’s always the reason to renege on your commitment.
Consider that the invitation could break you into a whole new network of people. It’s not always about the topic or subject matter of the conference or event. It’s about the grouping of people that will be assembled together in the same room.
You’re not there to consume as much as you are there to represent. Ask yourself, how can I represent my brand, my services, my values to a whole new group of people.
Resist the urge to isolate yourself. It’s best to make the effort to participate in the adjacent events that are being planned. Even if you’re just sitting together in the restaurant. Listening is such a powerful tool. Be the listener.
It requires effort to accept invitations and even more to actually attend the event. A mentor of mine once said that when you receive an invitation, you should “just say yes”. Relationships get forged and new friends are made. There’s something magical about enduring an experience together.
Nothing like scrolling through an already crazy inbox to see a request for information. Any demand on our time feels like a pouring more coffee into an already full cup and watching it slowly spill over the brim and leak onto our desk and then stream over the table’s edge onto our jeans.
I find it liberating however, not to ask whether I am going to respond to inquiry, but how friendly I can be when I do respond. Now I’m not talking about spam obviously. But consider how inquiries from friends, yes even the ignorant ones, could lead to more possibility.
The question being asked or the inquiry being made of you usually has a root cause that is hidden. I would resist the urge to jump in and help before asking a round or two of questions.
Remember that if you don’t know the answers, you may know someone who does. Isn’t this a wonderful way to introduce this person to someone else in your network?
Always do the follow up. Was your input or introduction helpful? You have no idea who you’re helping or what their network looks like. I see every minute I spend on someone’s issue as an investment into my future.
In summary, it takes effort to build your network. I see effort as compressed energy inside of the seconds we have lef in our days that springs into life at the most suprising moments when we need it most.