Friday, September 09, 2005

What is Networking?

Have you been hearing a lot about something called “networking” and wondering just what the heck it is exactly?

If you’ve asked around, you probably get the sense that nobody really knows what it is because if you ask 10 people, you get 11 different answers. That may be because “networking” will be different for everyone, at least in the details of how, where, when, and why you network. In addition, many people have an incomplete idea of what we call “networking”.

In your handout, there are 3 definitions from 3 different people, an Author of a networking book and 2 company presidents. All 3 are correct, but incomplete – which is why they appear different. If you drew a Zen Diagram of these 3 definitions, there would be more overlap than difference. Here is why I say that:

First, every person on the planet that has interactions with others forms relationships. This is a natural occurrence and is a product of that interaction. Most people will attempt to assist anyone they know (whether asked or not) with advice, guidance, referrals, and endorsements (presuming they feel good about the aspect of the person they are endorsing).

The most successful sales people are very adept at forming relationships – but they are equally good at something else… nurturing those relationships. They sometimes form something that has been attributed to more discriminating groups… “The Olde Boys Network” (sometimes I think they are referring to their maturity but I digress..). “The Olde Boys Network” – many of them in fact – are usually centered around men who have graduated from the same university or are current or former members of some group.

“The Olde Boys Network” really does “network”, especially in terms of job search and hiring but some have questioned if this was done while disregarding qualifications and suitability to the task and with an elitist selectivity of who they allow in their network and casting shadow over the process.

So… What is “Networking”?

True “networking” is the natural act of forming and nurturing relationships, making introductions, referring people to others, and endorsing some; then using that network of who you know, and who they know, to help others. The extent you are successful at networking (over the long haul anyway) depends on your ability to practice those skills. Therefore, we need to hone our natural skills to improve our outcomes.

Networking is a communications based tool and a process that has no beginning and has no end. It is not a goal nor does the act of networking have a goal itself. We all learn to walk but not with the goal of walking – we learn to walk to transport our bodies from one place to another. Walking is the process or tool we use to move our body from the chair to the car where we use another tool to transport ourselves longer distances.

So, what’s the difference between the natural form of networking that we all perform daily and the practice of networking? Deliberate nurturing of relationships. Nurturing of relationships involves deepening our knowledge of others and consciously trying to help them achieve their goals through referrals, advice, and endorsements.

Networking without “trusted relationships”, providing endorsements, and referrals is nothing more than “collecting business cards” and may be enough for some activities but does not stand the test of time and the outcome is often no better than a ‘cold call’.

True networking is an unselfish, lifelong activity, a practice, a tool, a process. The concept of “Giver’s Gain Philosophy" is an unselfish attitude that is contagious and promotes creditable, profitable, and lasting business relationships. The group functions as a sales team for each other by serving as each other's eyes and ears.1

So, how does that all relate to a job search?

OK, well… you know who you know but do they [know who you know]? Not likely and, in the past, everyone had to ask everyone they knew if they knew someone who… until they found someone who did. (Fell like you’re in Whosville?) Now, as with so many things computers and the Internet have given us, we have tools to help with that.

You never know who will know, or meet your next hiring manager. You need to let others know what you do, how well you do it (quantified and objective if possible), and that you are looking for another position. However, you need to try and help others achieve their goals in the process.

Why? How do you feel when someone helps you? Most people feel indebted (to some extent). If you help others, what do you think will happen? Suddenly, it’s not you searching for your next job by yourself, you have an army of people helping you in an attempt to repay you!

One reason you must make networking a lifelong part of who you are is that you build that army of people who want to help you and who “can’t say enough” (hopefully good) about you long before you need them. Those people best at this are never unemployed.

1 "Giver's Gain Philosophy" as defined by BNI (Business Networking International


Paul said...

Be sure to take a look at TNC's white paper I just discovered (Thanks Dan) entitled:, Networking, like life, is a Process not an Event.

Scott Ingram said...


This is a great post. I think many people become frustrated by networking because they don't truly understand what it is. You gave an excellent explanation.

Happy networking!