Networking For The Introvert

These notes were taken at an EPA conference from a talk given by John Richie. I hope you find them as valuable as I have.
(Thanks Allen for the copious notes!)

Overview on Networking

  • The average person knows 250 people. A “modest” network is around 3500 people.
  • Networking is not really about being outgoing, collecting business cards, knowing everyone in a room. Networking IS the investment of your lifetime. It is the people you know, and your ability to keep up with them and stay connected to them.
  • A Contact Manager is your most important business tool. Your greatest asset is the collection of people who take stock in your life.
  • A Network consists of individuals who share info, resources, and goals to meet common goals. It is a process of acquiring resources and building power by linking resources.
  • Networking is creating linkages. The network, then, is the people involved.

Networking = Helping
It is not about me, it is about helping the entire network. Don’t think of it as a means for others to help me, think of it as my ability to contribute to the network. It is symbiotic.

To start, we have to figure out what we can offer to others. We have to know our strengths, so we can know what we can contribute to the network. When you’re looking for work, it seems like no one is hiring. When you have a position to fill, it seems like there’s no one out there. People who can connect the job seekers to the job needers are valuable!

Networks, essentially, are for passing along information. You can offer info, people, skills, training, experiences, etc. Pay attention to casual referrals. You have no idea what value you create in your network when you connect two people.

  • Networking is purposeful. It doesn’t do much good to network people if there is no purpose in the the relationship.
  • Commonalities include business goals, personal interest, spiritual, training oriented, etc.
  • Plan out who you’ll network with each week. Know on Sunday who you want to talk to throughout the week.

Three Levels of Networks

  1. Innermost – will do anything you ask
  2. Peripheral – people you’re trying to move into your innermost circle
  3. Outside – loosely connected; passive relationships.

Constantly scan this group for people you can move into the 2nd circle. This process is professionally and personally rewarding, as you draw new friends in and keep them there.

Raw material: Business card. Then, track it in an organized system (electronic, etc). That is, review your contact list and update the info as needed.

Focus on them: The reason we often forget people’s names is that we are too focused on what we are going to say to them that we do not really take in what they are saying to us.

Disciplined network: If I can only talk to ten people this week, who would they be? How much time do I have to devote to managing my network?

The best way to build a network is to talk to people face to face. Find a place where you can be a “regular” and use it as a setting for consistent relationship-building. (i.e. John’s Starbucks budget is as big as his house payment!) A phone call is also good, if its all the time you have. Just a good way to touch base with someone. It keeps you on their radar. Use these discussions as a way to stay up to date with them, not to just spread around your own needs.

Remember, the network is about the network, not about you. Who can resist being called and asked if you can help them? Offer yourself to them, and they will be there for you when you need them.

Set reachable goals: Your weekly goal cannot be “Build my network.” How could you measure that? You have to set up specific ways you will do it. Make a list of people and phone numbers you will use for that specific week. When looking for work, the bare minimum is 20 people a day.

Helpful Hints About Networking

  1. Master the little things about people (birthdays, spouse names, kid’s names, assistant’s info, etc)
  2. Don’t give someone the wrong card by mistake! Keep your own business cards in a different pocket than the ones you are collecting! The person’s identity is wrapped up in their card. Treat it with respect.
  3. It is more important to get someone else’s card than to give out your own. Get their card and follow up soon after with a quick notes, etc. Remind them how you met, email your vcard, etc. The person may trash your card, but if you email the vcard, they’ll probably save it by default.
  4. Once the contact is made, figure out how you are going to grow and maintain the relationship. Follow up and offer to buy a cup of coffee. If they won’t sit down with you, you may have to write them off and move on.
  5. Don’t ask for something that they cannot give. Never ask someone for a job in that situation — and, never let their ability/inability to help affect your view of them.
  6. Never let your irritation over their behavior (dropped lunches, unreturned calls, etc.) affect your treatment of them. These are the moments when we can stand out from the crowd in dealing with them.
  7. Focus on offering more than you are asking.
  8. Maintainence matters. These things often take little energy to maintain, but when you stop putting energy into it, the momentum dies. The effort you put into it opens the door for meaningful discussion and relationships.

Additional
– Seek out networking business events in your area such as hosted breakfasts, lunches, special interest groups, etc.
– Read books on the topic. A good place to start is, Make Your Contacts Count.
– Check out your local Chamber of Commerce (or similar entity) for networking business groups.
– Join formal organizations such as the Rotary Club.

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