We’ve already talked about networking being food for the human spirit. You know that the “fuel” that powers networking is the exchange of information and, without it, you and your associates cannot stay connected to make downstream introductions. Now it’s time to talk about connectors — people who widen others’ circles.
WHAT IS A NETWORKING CONNECTOR?
It was Malcolm Gladwell in “The Tipping Point” who floated the concept of connectors, people who run in many disparate circles and who spend time with people who cut across varied industries, functions, leadership hierarchies, communities, alumni networks and philanthropies. Their interests and the circles they run in are not those that attract the same people. This notion is illustrated by idea of “six degrees of separation” and the pop culture fad The Kevin Bacon Game.
Diversity makes the connector highly valuable in the process of networking. So to become more valuable to your network, we suggest looking for ways to diversify the circles you run in. Remember that good networking is about helping others—not just about helping yourself! The more value you can offer your network by being a connector, the more it will come back to you in the form of fruitful introductions, business opportunities and good will. Optimize the time you spend networking by aligning yourself with connectors vs. those who know the same people you do.
Here is a quick story that illustrates the critical importance of staying connected!
It involves one of the most important hires I have ever made. I was early into managing a new practice and was beginning to hire some new blood. As I began my search for this role, I got the word out to members of my network and some recruiters.
Around the same time, I received a phone call from a gentleman with whom I’d been interacting for years, mostly on a social level. We worked in the same industry, so we shared some common ground. He remembered where I’d gone to school and commented on my alma mater having recently made the NCAA basketball tournament. (This is where asking a few questions of people and listening to their answers comes into play!) He also said that he was in the market and evaluating job alternatives.
This man was a master at keeping in touch and keeping himself top of mind with his clients, friends, and associates. Since I had not spoken to him in several months, he wasn’t immediately on my radar for a March Madness beer or a job. Yet, his “ping” was extremely timely, as he was exactly the “right” profile for what I was looking for. He was hired within a month. Cleary, his efforts to stay connected and top of mind paid off big time…for both of us! That skill of staying connected turned out to be the force behind this gentleman’s outstanding success with my firm and beyond.
SO WHAT ARE SOME EASY WAYS TO STAY CONNECTED?
- Make phone calls to say hello
- Send hand-written notes and postcards
- Forward articles, case studies and third-party white papers of interest
- Invite associates to meals and special events
- Send links to interesting websites and newsletters
- Make introductions to other people
As you move ahead, make sure you have a networking plan AND make time to do this work. Also, do your homework, prepare, and practice your interaction skills with internal colleagues and friends if possible. Internal colleagues are often an untapped constituency of connections, and a great way to get comfortable applying the networking skills we have been discussing.