Networking is like any sport in that it is the practice before and after a match that gives you the best performance. The chart below offers a view of where you create value in networking. At first glance, you may think just opposite, since if you can only win during the game, would not the meeting be the most important event to creating value?
A typical networking meeting allows you to start or expand a relationship and launch a pipeline of possible job opportunities and the victory usually comes after the meeting. The ability to get the relationship and pipeline going begins before you ever meet and the ability to grow the relationship comes after you meet.
The graph above is built from my 700+ networking meetings, in particular, its built on my realization of what made a networking meeting really pay off.
Before: Selection is the most important step in networking. Selection begins with understanding what you want (career development, job search, etc.) and identifying the type of networking contact who can help you achieve that task. Your goal is to make sure that your pitch/ask is something that your contact can act upon. Then it’s research about your contact and prep.
During: Establishing that you came to network is what set the tone that you came to build a relationship. The key purpose of the research is to find ways you can offer help to your contact, it’s that offer of help is what sets the tone. The other most important item to create value is a simple message that will remain, so a ‘less is more’ approach when it comes to how much you share about yourself.
After: Get ready for action, because this is where it all happens and is the payoff to the work before. If your objective is a new position, unless you’re lucky, most contacts generally do not have any roles they know of when you meet, but they will over time. You goal after a meeting is to continue to stay in contact and offer connection, insight, etc. from your continued networking.
The chart below is how the payoff will occur after a meeting.
- You and your initial contact will exchange connections as a result of your meeting
- You meet their connections using the ‘relationship building’ approach (offer connections, etc.)
- These connections will provide feedback to your initial contact, usually because of your ‘relationship building’ approach. That feedback builds your reputation.
- You continue to network to a broader number of people.
- The people in Step 2 are known to your initial contact, but the people in Step 4 may be people of interest to them. Taking a few minutes after a meeting to make that connection can build a relationship (make sure the introduction has mutual value to both parties).
- Here’s the payoff. Because you maintained and tried to build upon the relationship, your initial contact will remember you when opportunities come about and pass them to you.
This seems like work and it is, however, the cool part about making connections like this is that it becomes easier over time because you get to know the person.
These charts are also good indicator of where time is spent. Value is created when a relationship can be maintained. Therefore, consider how much time you have to invest into networking. You want to allow time in both building and developing your network.
Good luck today.