Familiarity can breed laziness when it comes to relationships. Whether at home or in the business world. While it is natural to “let down your guard” the more you are around a certain group of people, it can also be dangerous to your career. Complacency is a thief in the night.
While I have little doubt you understand the value that networking with other professionals can bring to your career, I wonder if you see the goldmine that is sitting right under your nose. Or desk for that matter.
How often are you using your networking skills inside your company?
One thing I have learned is that regardless of the size of an organization, there is always some level of political climate to navigate. You should be building deepened relationships with your subordinates, peers, and superiors for a variety of reasons. Establishing political capital with the right people enables you to “get things down” in a more timely and efficient manner.
Let’s be clear though. I am not talking about “brown nosing” your way to the top. I am suggesting that you further relationships by being genuinely interested in others and finding ways you can make their lives easier.
You’ll be surprised how much more enjoyable the work environment becomes, and the things you can accomplish.
Members have been using our site for over a year now to connect and build relationships with other professionals. The members that get the best results from their meetings have some common “best practices”.
1. Be professional
This includes being on time to your appointment (in fact I’d arrive a few minutes early), dressing professionally, and being actively engaged with your appointment partner. Keep small talk to just enough to break the ice (you are here for business, not to discuss the weather) and leave distractions like phones in the car.
2. Research the other party
We recommend that you us a variety of resources to learn a little about (not stalk) your appointment partner prior to your scheduled meeting. Social media is a great way to learn about their interests and influence. It is also a great way to see a picture ahead of time so you can be on the lookout for them when you arrive.
You should also take a look at their company’s website to better understand them, and browse other sites to learn about trends in their given industry.
3. Have introductions ready
If you have done your research then you should have an idea of what contacts you have that the other person could benefit from. Already knowing the names of some people you are willing to connect them with shows your willingness and ability to be a great business partner.
4. Be specific
Similar to #3, know what connections the other party may have that you would be interested in making. Being specific about the people and industries where you would like to meet other professionals makes you more referable.
5. Recap and set expectations
A great way to end your meeting is to recap the things of importance that you have discussed and set expectations. If you have offered to make some introductions for the other professional, set a firm timeline for how and when you will accomplish that.
I was first introduced to John through a recruiter in my area. It seems John was looking to connect with other entrepreneurs and our mutual contact thought I was a great place to start. Apparently, I know a few people. After a few back and forth emails, we decided to connect in person.
John’s background is impressive. He holds an MBA from Harvard and has worked with numerous startups in a variety of C level positions. The most recent company is Perfect Serve, where John was instrumental in helping the company raise capital and achieving a high level of success. A great person to get to know in the professional arena. I only hoped he would feel the same way.
Shortly after greeting one another at our appointed time, John gave me one of my favorite compliments. “You’ve made a business out of networking”, he said. You bet I have.
After learning more about each other’s background (both of us are finance professionals, and are involved in the startup scene) I asked how I could help. It seems that John is now looking for a new venture to get involved with, and in his words “after years of being a back office guy I knew I needed to get out in front of people”. I was happy to oblige and suggested about five individuals I would be happy to connect him to.
What did I ask for in return? Nothing. I didn’t have to. John, in turn, is going to introduce me to some of his fellow Harvard MBA grads. I’d say it was a good meeting to take wouldn’t you?
That’s how networking works.
It is interesting sometimes how similar subjects seem to surface from multiple avenues at the same time.
Just yesterday one of my partners in GoGrabLunch.com emailed me an article about Pinterest, and how their rise to social media stardom had been fraught with struggles until they began utilizing social sign-ons through Facebook. Then, this morning, I read Fred Wilson’s article title “Can you Build a Network on Top of Another Network?”. Wilson’s thoughts are that you can, and sometimes should do so, however at that point he felt you really don’t have your own network.
The culmination of both conversations got me thinking back to the early days of GoGrabLunch.com and our decision to remain independent of other sites.
Without question I can tell you that had we used social sign-ons through sites like Facebook and LinkedIn our site would be much, much further along in terms of registered members. After all, by doing so you make the registration process quicker and you are able to use status updates to broadcast to potential members. So, in terms of membership numbers not using other APIs was a mistake.
Where I think we did go right with our strategy is that our independence protected us in two ways. First, it allowed us to avoid worrying about being shut down by someone else. LinkedIn has recently announced that in the near future Twitter access from their site will be limited. Prior to buying them, Twitter shut down all access for Tweetdeck for a period of time. When you connect yourself wholly to another platform you risk being closed down by their decisions. Second, like Fred Wilson mentions, I feel we truly have our own network of members. Not merely access to members of another site.
Only time will tell what was the right decision.