NETWORKING with Friends and Acquaintances

NETWORKING with Friends and Acquaintances 150 150 Pegine

When was the last time you became a tourist in your own town or city? Unless you have had visitors it probably was a while ago. We don’t see our town in the same light as a tourist would. We downplay it and often forget it is special. Have your ever noticed that we see the sights of our hometown only when someone comes to visit? It is only when someone from out of town comes to stay that we break out the walking shoes and show with pride the sites and sounds that make our area special and unique. We point out the areas of interest, and often times we ask ourselves – why don’t we do this more often? Why do we wait until someone new comes to visit to show the strengths of our town?

Sharing ourselves

Sharing who we are and our accomplishments is a similar experience. We don’t share them with our everyday acquaintances or friends, because they know us. Just as we take our town for granted we also take our friends, colleagues and ourselves for granted. We are so used to each other that we forget to share our accomplishments, dreams and goals. We also forget to ask about their accomplishments, dreams, and goals.

At a professional function recently, a group of professionals were sitting together and relaxing. They knew each other for several years and several of them were quite good friends, speaking often on the phone and through e-mail. I sat down listened to their joking and laughter. It was evident that they enjoyed each other’s company.

I asked them about their networking practices and how they networked. Many shared that it wasn’t their strong suit. They didn’t like introducing themselves to new people, they felt more comfortable among themselves. They didn’t feel comfortable, “selling themselves or bragging”. It was then that I knew that the art of networking was being lost among this most talented, friendly group. I offered to share techniques that would reap immediate benefits right then and there — and now with you — here and now.

Networking Defined

The term networking comes from fishing. A fisherwoman casts her net into the ocean. It spreads over a wide area. After time she reels the net in. As she reels the net in she catches many fish, often many different types of fish. She may be after tuna, but her net has caught shrimp, cod and other varieties. Some she will throw back in the water, (dolphin for instance) because ethically she knows it’s the right thing to do. Some she will keep for herself. The rest she will give to the others, usually her friends and relationships she respects, who specialize in the various other fish. Networking is the same thing. You throw out your net, sharing what you do and what you are looking for into your ocean of relationships. After a time, you reel your net in, by following up and keeping in contact. Your net will bring in various bits of information. You will toss some, keep some and share some. Who will you share them with? Friends and business relationships, you respect, who specialize in the various other fields.

4 steps to creating an effective network

As I began to share this definition with this group of professional friends, I asked if it was all right if I do a process with them about networking. They agreed. I went around the table and asked them to share their name, what they do, how they do it and what they hope to have in five years. As we went around the table it was intriguing to find out the various specializations that these professionals had. What was more exciting, funny and revealing was the response from the listeners. Each time a member presented we would hear from someone – “I didn’t know that, my company is looking for….” Or “Can I recommend you for this consulting project? We’ve been looking for someone for the last year and you’re perfect”. Here was a group of women who communicate regularly, but didn’t know exactly what each did on a daily basis. They didn’t know the passion that each person had about a particular project.

Two important revelations occurred. One was a sense of relief among the group because they are often called on to recommend someone, but they felt that they didn’t know anyone. Yet in a matter of minutes they had seven experts that they could easily recommend. It was a revelation that they had access to the high caliber people in their own circle of friends. The second was that several of the woman had their own consulting companies and without even a sales pitch, were being recommended for a project that was their forte. It was revealing to everyone that business is built on trust, recommendations and referrals – and that they had easy access to all three.

How can you do this right now? You can start by following the following four steps. Creating, Casting, Reeling and Sharing. It is a process, and in the beginning it requires determination, persistence and practice. Remember that you are among friends and acquaintances, people who support you and want you to succeed. Don’t be afraid – your among friends – go fishing!

Creating the Net

In order to create your net you should have three things. 1) A clear short description for what you do. Your elevator speech. Can you describe what you do in the time of a typical elevator ride? If not develop a short, concise “elevator speech”. 2) A goal you want to achieve in your professional career. Have you defined where you want to be in the next five years? What position would you like to hold? Do you know what you need to get there? (We will be discussing all of these net creation techniques in future articles). 3) A willingness to help others get what they want. You need to be open to listening to what others are saying. What are they looking for? Do you have anyone in your group of friends, family and associates who can help?

Casting the Net

When you are at your next professional meeting, or at a family gathering with cousins or your next “girlfriend” get together, cast your net. Share this article with them. Practice your elevator speech. Tell them what you are looking for and ask them to think if they know any leads. Ask about their “elevator speech.” What are they looking for and search your own mind for connections?

Reeling It in

Two weeks later, or a few days later look through your database. You will find that you may have a couple of people who could help one of your professional colleagues. As you are surfing the Net you will come across an article that would be helpful to another Colleague, who was part of your “casting Group”. Before you know it, you may receive a phone call from one of the members of your “casting group”, she has a lead for you. You share your excitement about the information you’ve found that will help the others. Of course, that information was always there, you just didn’t know who could use it.

Sharing With Friends and Associates

Later you’re on the phone with Sonia, your professional colleague and dear friend, and share what you have found. Remind her to look through her database for any connections. The more you begin to look, listen and share the more opportunities come your way. People want to he
lp people they like. They want to help you.

From Sharing Your Town to Sharing Yourself

The awareness and sense of pride we get when we see our community from a tourist’s perspective is what we feel when we share our accomplishments, goals and skills with others. Just as a visitor feels enthusiasm for your community, a colleague feels the same way about your accomplishments, skills and goals. They know how hard it is to get where you are. They understand the challenges. They know what you stand for since they have been friends with you for awhile and they like how you are, (they wouldn’t stay in contact if they didn’t). Those are all pluses for both of you. She will refer you and you will refer her. That’s what networking is all about!