From time to time, someone tells me that networking as an approach is falling into disfavor. (If it does, we will have to change the name of our networking group, and I am at a loss as to how to come up with another name!)
When people talk about networking in this way, the networking that they are talking about is the kind that John Lucht discusses in his book Rites of Passage as “the NFL approach to networking.” This is where you hold someone down and refuse to let them up until they give you three names. (Or maybe four!)
This brute force approach to the gentlemanly game of making genuine business relationships for the future has never worked and will never work. And, rest assured that we don’t sanction this kind of behavior within The FENG.
We have a membership directory that contains 40,000+ names. Not a bad start on your networking process. At worst, you can learn about networking from selectively identifying folks with whom you have some connection.
I thought I had explained this part of the process to one of our members, but was later disappointed to learn from someone he had contacted that apparently my message had been lost in translation. As is our tradition in The FENG, those who offend other members are reported to “the Principal” (that’s me) for disciplinary action. (Don’t worry. I’m known as gentle Matt.)
In one recent case the member in question DID only contact those who had a connection to him. The problem was he didn’t tell them. Yes, hard to be believe, but the connection that went unmentioned was that they had worked at the same firm or firms, but at different times. Sure, the offended members might have figured that out if they had opened the attached resume, but the cover note was so close to a “Dear FENG Member” kind of note that I am sure many of those he contacted didn’t.
Key to getting call backs and making connections is analogous to the problem we face with 90-second announcements. (Ah, the symmetry of life.) The communications we send to our future friends need to be concise in communicating our backgrounds as well as to how the recipient can help.
The single biggest problem in communication is the ILLUSION that it has been accomplished. (George Bernard Shaw)
You can’t have the shirt off my back, or access to my friends, or even a few minutes of my time unless I know why I should make you such a gift.
So, before we all get carried away with the “failure” of networking and put ourselves in the position where we have to come up with another word, (I am still struggling with the change from garbage collector to sanitary engineer), let’s work as hard as we can to KEEP networking from getting a bad name.
As I have said before and I will say again tonight: “Every day and in every way, it all starts with you.”
Within our circle of friends, be respectful of the time of others. Make sure they know the reasons why they should take your call. Make sure you’re organized when you call.
And, last but not least, be sure to say thanks – several times. (It can’t hurt and just might encourage them to try “networking” one more time. Done right, it is a bad habit that is hard to break.