When I first learnt about “networking” I thought it was most relevant to social media. How many friends do you have on Facebook? How many followers do you have on Twitter? or how many business cards you exchange?
What I learnt recently after attending a workshop conducted by Jonathan C. Lewis changed my view about networking. Jonathan stressed the importance of person-person interactions being the most valuable form of networking and managing relationships should be a core part of any initiative. He gave everybody at the workshop his business card and told us that he has only one email address and phone number and that that information is on his business card. He also mentioned that all his emails and calls get answered within a day or two.
This is how Jonathan maintains his relationships. Since the workshop, I have followed up with Jonathan through email quite a few times and received a lot of advice on how to prepare myself for a career and make my resume more professional.
At the workshop, Jonathan mentioned two core skills needed to maintain relationships. Which are;
- Good listnership
Aligning with these core skills, he also mentioned that “networking” means taking an interest in the other person, asking questions and being genuine. It also means obtaining information and following up on a regular basis.
Jonathan’s advice on what never to do while networking is “Never make a list of people you want to meet”. The more people you talk to, the more likely you are going to create an interest and a space for the development of your career or what ever reason you are networking for. Making a list can also restrict you and cause you to miss some unique opportunities that you would have been able to stumble upon. Jonathan also cautioned that if you find yourself speaking to a person and they seem distracted while you are speaking with them, then you should move on and not waste your time. He advised that we should spend time with people that have an interest in what you do even if it unclear how the other person can help you at first.
Networking through social media
I think social media can be a very good tool to increase awareness and notify people of your cause. It has the power to reach thousands of people across the globe. However, it lacks the ability to convince people to support you in any means other than a like/share. This is further elucidated through the marketing funnel below. Social media is great to gather your audience into the first level of the funnel. However, what makes people move from one level to the next is the level of engagement, in build trust and credibility. This trust and credibility is built through an ongoing relationship (and may take longer than expected), thus when an opportunity arises to engage through social media, and effort should be made to bring that connection out of just an online platform into a person-person interaction.
Yes, I agree that setting up in person meetings takes a lot of time and time an effort to plan and engage in conversation. However the benefits of such a relationship can go beyond just a one time donation to your project/ investment/ recommendation for a career. These interactions can lead to marketing strategy based on “word of mouth” which is quite effective and can have ripple effects.
This approach has certainly helped me make connections within local government, the private sector and non-profit sector. As I am just entering in to the workforce, I believe that it is essential for me to make allies in these various sectors who can advice on me the various projects I take on and the career path that I wish to follow in the future.
I hope this article will help you network as you search for a job, search for an investor, search for a donor for your cause or life partner.