As I have stated many times in my online Entrepreneurial webinars, successful business networking can lead to new clients and new partnerships by expanding who knows you and knows about your business idea. You have to be visible in the business community for business networking to work.
You have to get out there and actually connect with people. Business networking creates a pool of contacts from which you can draw leads, referrals, ideas, and information for your job search. You have to find the people you want to connect with and develop a plan for getting in front of them.
“It’s not just what you know or who you know, it’s also how well they know your skills and interests that counts when you are networking,” says Herb Watchinski, owner of Sirius International, Inc. and professional Career Center Consultant in Columbia, Missouri. “They have to know you well enough for you to come to mind when a manager describes the position they are trying to fill, and asks, “Do you know anyone good?” That is when the “work” part of the word networking pays off,” Watchinski said.
It is said that up to 80% of jobs are never advertised. They are filled when someone says, “You know who would be good at that?” And, the referral is made. It is a popularly held belief among career consultants that networking has always been the most effective way to find that new position you’re seeking.
Typically, less than 20% of jobs are filled through a combination of newspaper, search firms, and Internet. 80% percent are filled through networking referrals, and around 60% of executive vacancies are filled through networking. Most jobs are filled when a manager asks associates or peers if they know anyone good.
Initially, some of my business clients think business networking is just about mailing out brochures or circulating around a meeting room and handing out business cards, but it is really about building personal relationships over time. Today, who you know is just as important as what you know when that question is asked. You want your contacts to know about your goods and services so when someone asks, “Do you know anyone that would be good?” you come to mind.
Business networking and career networking are becoming so similar they are merging into what is increasingly being called social networking. Good business networking starts with networking socially through groups and organizations ranging from local service organizations like Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions Clubs to professional and trade associations. Chambers of Commerce and Merchants Associations offer venues where business people from throughout your community gather to promote the common good.
Churches often sponsor networking clubs for those in their neighborhood who are in job transition and networking groups are springing up in various specialty fields. But, the World Wide Web is the hottest new place to cultivate business relationships.
“Online networking is a phenomenon that really has just started to reach its stride,” Watchinski said. “Business networking services like Ryze.com, Ecademy.com, and LinkedIn.com let active networkers connect with others in ways not possible before the web. Netshare.com provides executives and professionals at the $100K level with networking opportunities, and a community of peers for the exchange of strategic information. Executives, of course, also have to network into headhunters and executive search firms. Your eNetwork can literally extend around the world, and can include a million or more contacts at your third level.”
Visualizing the Network
To visualize a network, think of the outline of a target, with you located on the bulls eye. In the first ring around the bulls eye are the people you already know through work, church, civic or social organizations, and your family members. These are called your primary contacts. Typically, there are 300 people in your primary contact ring.
You may not, at first, think you know 300 people, but keep in mind; this includes people you only know by first name, who are in your diverse social network. It also includes your doctor, dentist, attorney, accountant, and all other professionals with whom you interface. So, it isn’t as hard to come up with 300 primary contacts as you may have at first thought.
Now, if all 300 of those people each know 300 people the ring around them contains at least 90,000 Secondary Contacts for you to meet! The ring around them would contain an amazing 27,000,000! There are over eight billion in the fourth ring, and since that is much more than the population of the USA, you have worldwide contacts within reach. Fortunately, most referral jobs are located in the ring containing the 90,000, and you usually don’t have to network beyond that level.
There are frequent situations, however, where you will meet with one of the Secondary Contacts, and they say, “You know, one of my associates was mentioning to me the other day they were looking for someone to specialize in an area I think you would really fit into well. Let’s walk down to her desk to see if she is in.” Boom! All of a sudden you are in an interview!
“Because networking is about building and maintaining relationships, credibility is a key element,” Watchinski said. New contacts won’t necessarily start driving business your way or give you a referral until they know you better. Referrals aren’t given easily today. You have to earn respect. If you don’t take the time to establish credibility, you’re not going to get that referral you might desperately need. People have to get to respect you, feel confident that you will consistently deliver quality.
Think of it this way,” he continued, “Referrals are very powerful. They will open doors for you. However, when I refer you, I am putting my own reputation on the line. If you do a good job, my Primary Contact that hired you will be pleased. But, if you do a poor job, that reflects badly on me and my judgment. That’s why you have to earn the right to be referred.”
Helping others is one sure-fire way to establish credibility. It really comes down to being willing and open to helping people. Look for ways to expand your network, and when you connect with people give them something useful, such as information, ideas, and contacts. That’s the best way to build credibility, especially if you give it freely without any strings attached. The more you give away the more you become an important contact in others’ networks.
People will come to you because you have the connections they seek. Networking is more about cultivating relationships, and is all about give and take and willingly helping people. If you would like to get your eNetworking started, visit my LinkedIn profile, and request to join the network at http://www.linkedin.com/in/larryevaughn.
In closing, there is a word of caution about eNetworking I feel compelled to share. With identity theft on the rise, we each have to be very cautious about the personal information we enter into online databases. Ask yourself, “Why does this website need this information?” If you can’t think of any reason, there may not be one. Be particularly cautious about information that can be reverse-looked-up as a step to stealing your identity, such as your mailing address and home telephone number.
There are eNetworking websites that provide adequate protection from hackers, but I would always recommend erring on the side of caution. I personally have avoided joining online eNetworking communities that require my mailing address to open an account, but do all their communication by email. What value does that mailing address have to them other than something they can sell to marketers? And, who needs more junk mail? Also, that database just might become an attractive target for hackers working for identity thieves.