By Kathleen E. Murphy
There’s a saying you have all heard it’s “who you know, not what you know”. When I first heard this expression, it annoyed me, especially since it was a common expression I heard numerous times after I graduated from college. For many years, I did not want to believe this statement had much merit, but as my career developed, I realized it might have more strength as a concept than I gave it credit.
When you think about your network and the people you regularly engage with, have you considered whether you have consciously developed your network, or has it been purely developed organically from the people you have met? I read a book a few years ago called “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi. The concept of the book was that you should always be in the process of developing your network and taking every opportunity to network with people, especially during dining opportunities. He explained that whether you realize it or not, your network will afford you other opportunities for career advancement or moves into industries you may not have foundational experience in.
As an executive coach and professional sports and performance advisor, I routinely talk to clients about the importance of expanding their network, and getting out of their comfort zone by meeting new people. For those clients who dread the thought of meeting new people, I advise them to seek out meeting new connections via their present network. It is far less intimidating to approach meeting new connections this way, and you already have something in common with the new person you are meeting. Developing your network does not always have to be accomplished in person, but when possible, this would be my recommendation. The second-best way to meet new connections is by scheduling a brief 10-15-minute call with them. You should develop an agenda of what you want to talk to the person about prior to the call, share it with them, and then adhere to the agenda to respect the new connections time. If the conversation is going well, you can always schedule additional time with them, or agree to meet in person if this is possible.
If you have the opportunity to travel, I highly recommend scheduling brief in person meetings with people from your current network, and with 1-2 other people who are connections from your network. It is critical to make sure you are always cultivating your current network, as the more time you spend investing in the relationship with your current connections will pay off immensely when you least expect it to. Another factor to remember about networking is to always ask the person you are networking with what you can do for them, and to sincerely offer to help them in some way. It might not be an immediate action you can do for them, but you should let them know you would like to reciprocate any action they are doing to help you. It could be offering to talk to either someone they know who would like advice from you about your expertise, or perhaps extending them an opportunity to be connected to someone in your network.
My parents have served as tremendous examples for me about the importance of cultivating my network, or what I refer to as my professional friends. For those who know me, meeting new people is one of the most exciting things I routinely look forward to doing. I am one of those people who look at strangers as simply people I have not had the opportunity to meet and get to know yet. Having this attitude has served me extremely well in terms of allowing me to build my network over the years. I do not overtly work on developing my network, but instead look for informal opportunities to do so, in places I am going to, or when I will be in social settings when I do not know everyone at the event. By not placing too much emphasis on whether I am growing my network, it more organically tends to be developed, and which I think is a good model for others to follow.
The most important thing to remember about networking is to have fun with the process. Too many people stress themselves out by thinking they constantly need to be networking. They do not, and I do not recommend doing so. Instead, approach developing your network like you would if you were working on planting a garden. Prep your soil, plant your seeds, water them and cultivate the results of your efforts in a more relaxed timeframe. Before you know it, the work you put into growing your garden will produce wonderful abundance.
In honor of Father’s Day, this blog article is dedicated to my Father, Daniel Murphy. Happy Father’s Day Dad, and to all of the Father’s out there, or to the people who play the “unofficial” role of a Father to others in their lives.
Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me Too. Market Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at email@example.com.