Networking – what is it?
Wikipedia tells us that networking is “a social and professional activity that aims to quickly and efficiently solve complex life problems and business issues with the help of a circle of friends and acquaintances.” This is the most accurate definition of networking, however, I would like to add that this is not just friendship for the benefit, but building relationships based on trust, sympathy and desire to help.
Theory of Six Handshakes
Networking is based on the theory of six handshakes proposed by American psychologists Stanley Milgram and Jeffrey Travers back in 1969. The essence of this theory is that each person is familiar with any other inhabitant of the planet through a chain of acquaintances consisting of only five people (that is, six handshakes). Psychologists deduced this theory by conducting an experiment: 300 subjects were given envelopes containing the name of the person who needed to pass this envelope. But it was possible to transmit only through their friends. At the end of the experiment, psychologists calculated how many people on average each envelope went through and the result was quite impressive – in just five people. It turns out that each of us knows, for example, Barack Obama, Johnny Depp or Bill Gates through just five people.
The theory of six handshakes at one time was tried to confirm by Microsoft, using the data of the MSN messenger for this, and as a result they got 6.6 handshakes, which may well serve as confirmation of the veracity of the theory of Milgram and Trevers.
Based on all this, it becomes clear that every person has access to absolutely any connection that may be useful to him both in his personal life and in the business environment. It remains only to make these connections correctly. There are several “rules” in networking, following which you can quickly expand your network of acquaintances.
1. Take the first step. Wherever you find yourself, and where the atmosphere contributes to the establishment of new acquaintances – take the first step towards other people. If you stand and wait until you speak first, you will expand your network of acquaintances for a very long time. You can get acquainted anywhere – at a social event, at a business conference, in line at the ticket office, at a cat show, and so on.
2. For networking, use all available communication methods – personal communication, phone, email, social networks, etc. Each of these methods has its own rules of communication – for example, in most cases they do not communicate via e-mail via short messages, as in social networks. Adhere to such rules that are established by society and you can establish contacts even more effectively.
3. Always be ready to get to know each other. Carry enough business cards with you in case you have a good acquaintance. You can’t do without business cards in networking – after all, a person who communicates a lot with new people is not able to remember everyone and everyone. Business cards are convenient in that in addition to your name and contact details, they can also remind you of what you do and what services you provide. Show enough attention to the business card handed to you by the interlocutor. Do not put it in your pocket without looking. First, consider it and ask the interlocutor about something, for example, which of the numbers is best to call in a particular case, or check with him the specifics of his activity. After the attention shown, you will have a much greater chance that the interlocutor will remember you, and in a positive light.
4. Keep in touch constantly. Effective networking does not imply that you met a person, exchanged business cards and immediately forgot about his existence until the moment when you need his services. When networking, you need to constantly, but unobtrusively remind yourself. At a minimum, send all your connections congratulations on important events in their lives by e-mail or on social networks. But also take into account the degree of closeness of your relations with a specific person – to focus on delicate events from a person’s personal life, if you are not close enough to him, you should not.
5. Only disseminate positive information. When building useful relationships, try to talk only about positive things. Positive always has to itself.
6. Do not underestimate the importance of any of your contacts. Life is unpredictable – today’s beggar may become a millionaire tomorrow. And if earlier you deprived him of your attention, then after you will bite your elbows. When there are many contacts, it is rather difficult to show sufficient attention to everyone. Therefore, you can build a hierarchy of the importance of relations, but always remember that someone who is not so important today, after a while, may be number one in your contact list.
7. Do not miss a single event to which you are invited. For various reasons, many people try not to attend evening meetings of graduates of their school or university. And very in vain. This is a great way to raise and strengthen old acquaintances. Perhaps one of your classmates is now doing the same thing as you, but at a higher level. The same goes for other events – for example, working conferences, business trips or seminars. If you don’t feel like going to such events, think about the fact that perhaps there you will receive many useful links?
8. Improve your communication skills. Some people are naturally proficient in the art of communication, and some are forced to learn it on their own. But in both cases it will be very useful to improve your ability to communicate effectively. People like to communicate only with those who show enough attention and sincere interest in them. Mockery in communication will only hurt you. Specialized literature (as an option, the good old Dale Carnegie) and psychological training will help you learn how to communicate properly. And the most effective exercise is, of course, communication itself. Communicate more with people of different types, and after a while you won’t be lost and think feverishly what to answer this or that phrase, even the most awkward or unexpected.
9. Offer your help. You make contacts not only in order to use someone else’s help when you need it, but also in order to offer your help to others. Networking is not a one-goal game. If you will be happy to help others, then be sure that they will sincerely render their help to you.
10. Take care of your image. With the growth of your network of contacts, the number of opinions about you will grow. Always make sure that these opinions are positive. It is possible that someone will want to contact you only because I heard a positive recommendation from your friend, who is also your friend. The reverse is also possible – a negative opinion often serves as an obstacle to making contact. Maintaining your image is one of the foundations of effective networking.
11. Do not chase quantity. What is more important in networking: quality or quantity? Of course, quality. Try to make only those acquaintances that may be potentially useful to you. And although we can never know in advance whether this contact will come in handy in the future (returning to point 6), we can often immediately determine how appropriate it is to make contact with a specific person. It’s better to have 300 useful contacts in your notebook than 1000 absolutely unnecessary ones.
12. Trust, but verify. Trust is very important in networking. But do not go too far with him. Still, most of the people in your network are people unfamiliar to you. At least at first. And blindly trusting them will be a big mistake. Learn to “read” people and ideally trust them just as much as they trust you.