So then, are you a natural networker? Most people aren’t – it’s a learnt behaviour – so there is no shame in answering “no” to that one. Even I, being an “off the scale E in MBTI terms” find networking almost boring at times. So when Harvard tells everyone to NYFO (network your face off), I laugh and look for a purpose in every single networking contact I make.
Dr Gottschalk talks of the 70:20:20 rule. What is that I hear you ask? Well, you control the invited guests you network with rather than being flung into a context where you know nobody and feel like you know nothing. That’s a scenario which many find paralysing to be in.
This is a simple guide to networking, for those less keen to be as overt or exhibitionist as us extroverts:
The ‘Given” 70% Group – Create this group from those you already know, those who work within your core context, or those whom you know have a similar role your yourself. Chose those you feel confident to talk to and ask about their roles, organisations or issues in the first instance. The best opener is to ask about the particular challenges they are currently facing – this will give you a whole new perspective, which is always worthwhile.
The Chosen 20% – The “jewel” group. These folk work in areas adjacent to yours. Those you need to build a relationship with. They may be customers, stakeholders, suppliers, contractors etc. This will widen your reach and provide a go-to network for speed of feedback, strength of relationship and an even wider perspective on a users or stakeholders view of your area. These folk are absolutely invaluable to you. Spending time talking to them is never ever wasted.
The Bonkers 10% : The Outrageous Gang. Reach out, unpredictably, to those operating in areas that just interest you. Just feed your passion for learning. This is not as bonkers as it sounds . Take Steve Jobs of Apple for example. He reached out and showed an interest in Hewlett Packard’s mouse and windows operating system when the Hewlett Packard New York Board failed to see the relevancy and future opportunity it presented. Jobs made the approach and was given permission by the Board to take the technology, ideas and information. From this, he reverse engineered, as a basis for Apple computers. His for free!!! He didn’t do too bad out of that networking episode did he? I bet the Hewlett Packard New York Board are kicking themselves all the way to mediocrity.
Networking is very much about expanding horizons. If you aren’t doing this, you might as well be professionally dead!