You’ve heard this your whole life: quality is more important that quantity. And it’s true in networking as well. You don’t necessarily need to network relentlessly; you need to network right.
There’s no doubt about it. Networking is time consuming. It’s not about collecting hundreds of contacts and filing them away; it’s about nurturing the ones that you do have.
Following are three common networking scenarios, and advice on making the most out of them.
1. At a Professional Trade Organization Event
Many times the tendency here is to want to grab as many cards as you can. So you meet someone, introduce yourself, talk for a few minutes – while you’re scanning the room – and then quickly excuse yourself to go see someone else.
Networking is not speed dating. At an event like this, a much better tactic is to get to know one to three people relatively well. So, really engage the person you first talk to when you arrive. At the table, focus on one or two people within close proximity so you aren’t talking over others or otherwise trying to get attention from others at the table.
It’s fine – and good – to MEET lots of people but the goal is to get to know a select few so that they are going to remember you when you follow up – which you will because that’s when the REAL networking starts.
2. On LinkedIn
There are two theories of LinkedIn …one is quality, as in linking with people you actually KNOW or at the least, people in your industry with whom you have something in common.
The other is quantity, which is sending a request to everyone you meet, whether it’s someone you met “speed dating” at that event we talked about in scenario one; your shoe salesman; or everyone who is a fellow member of a group on LinkedIn.
There’s nothing WRONG with connecting with all these people but there’s also likely nothing helpful about it. There have been times that I have looked at other people’s lists to find a mutual contact and been delighted that a potential client is on their list. I’ll email them all excited and they’ll be like, “Oh we actually never met. They were on another one of my contact’s lists.”
That defeats the whole purpose of LinkedIn. Just because you have heard of someone or seen their name somewhere doesn’t mean that linking to them is valuable.
Before you send an invitation, think about what you would say if someone asked how you knew so-and-so, or asked if you would recommend them for a project. If you don’t know enough about them to pinpoint how you know them or are familiar with their work, they probably aren’t someone you need to connect with.
Because being a “connection” can take time. It means that you read their updates and post on them when appropriate. It means that you share their content, or congratulate them on a new job when it shows up in your news feed. Because those are the people who are going to come to you with a referral or a professional request or offer. THAT’S your network…not the 800 randoms whose names you don’t recognize.
3. In Your Office
This is one place where I will relax my rules on quantity over quality. The truth is you SHOULD know as many people in your office as you can – from all different departments and at all different levels. Knowing people up and down and sideways in your organization means that you will be the first to hear of new projects, new assignments, layoffs, hiring opportunities and more.
There’s someone in every company who knows everything – in a good way, not a gossipy way. Become that person or know that person! There’s always a benefit to having “friends” in high places…and low places…and accounting when you are turning your expense report in late (not that you would ever do that, or ask for a favor!).
Networking is about knowing the right person for the right request or need. And if you don’t know anything about your so-called network, it’s hard to be able to call on them when you need them — or when they might need you, since it’s a two way street.
Cultivating better, stronger – not necessarily more – contacts is the secret to success in the networking world.
by Cathie Ericson