Nuances of Networking

UPDATED: November 3, 2008
PUBLISHED: November 3, 2008

Networking is not a work style; it is a lifestyle that can enhance our personal and professional lives. Here are some common myths and important truths about networking to help you connect to your contacts.

Myth: I don’t have a network. Truth: Everybody has a network.

We are born into one, went to school with several: grammar, high, college, religious. You have one if you have lived in neighborhoods, served in the armed forces or belong to a club, band, team, fraternity/sorority or a service organization. Make sure you know who you know. Go through the periods of your life, the class photos and yearbooks. Visualize your neighborhoods and neighbors. List the names of people you remember. Think about the jobs you’ve had. Who were your colleagues, co-workers, competitors, vendors? You may want to do the activity on your computer, if you are so inclined. Or, like myself, with paper and pencil. Go through old address books, and holiday lists. And don’t forget the people who are in the periphery of your life, yet are a great source: cleaner, barber/hairstylist, mechanic, computer consultant, carpool cronies, local merchants. You will not remember everyone at the first sit-down. Add names to the list.

Your list is a reference tool. How we use it is as important as when and for whom. It may be to connect a nephew with a potential mentor. Or a colleague with a great mechanic. It is not always about us. In time of need, people band together and help. We see it after earthquakes, fires, floods, when friends are stricken with illness. People are generally nice.

Myth: People should know what you need and offer to help.

Most people are happy to help when they are asked. At a marketing seminar we gave at the Chamber of Commerce over a decade ago, one attendee said that he was disappointed because other people often didn’t assist/help/return a favor. He asked, “Shouldn’t people know what I need?”

Truth: Most people don’t know what they need, so how can you assume they know what you need?

A tenet of life and networking: The best of networkers don’t even know that they are networking – they just do: refer, match, recommend, and connect people.

Myth: Networking is using people. Truth: Networking is a reciprocal process.

It is mutually beneficial where we give and receive and share ideas, information, leads, referrals, tickets to cultural and sporting events, laughter with enthusiasm, support and joy. Science has a term for it, which applies to networking: interdependence. Our grandparents had a better word: helping.

“Networking is not using others; it’s a process of utilizing sources and resources and being one yourself,” according to the late Sally Livingston, a pioneer networking advocate.

Susan RoAne, The Mingling Maven®, is the best-selling author of the newly released Face To Face: How To Reclaim the Personal Touch in a Digital World and the classic, How to Work a Room®.