Building your network is not the same as networking

Building your network is not the same as networking

It may seem like a trivial difference, but the difference are very important.  Most of us nowadays associate building your network with networking, and most of us associate networking with “schmoozing”, and / or mass “hand-shake, elevator pitch, small talk” sessions, which most of us (including myself) hate (which is a strong word so maybe passionately dislike is better).  The difference is subtle but important.

I would suggest that the difference between the two would be similar to the difference between quantity and quality.

  • Networking is the “quantity” part.  A large number of business cards and / or contact information exchanged over a short period of time.  Connecting with the LinkedIn suggested connections as they pop-up.  Adding to your professional network.
  • Building your network is the “quality” part.  Taking those contacts and reaching out to them.  Getting to know them.  Really connecting with them.  Sharing with them.  Doing favors for them if they ask for them.  Sometimes if they don’t even ask for them if you feel it would add value.

Networking is still important

Now, this does not mean that you should not network.  Networking is an integral part of building your network.  Your network will dwindle over time and without continually making those connections and re-visiting those connections, then your network won’t stay healthy for very long.  And you shouldn’t necessarily discriminate when it comes to networking (i.e. you don’t always have to network with CEOs or high level people in the organization).  Sometimes your best connections are the lower or middle level resources (who may end up CEOs or high level people in other organizations).

Tips to build your network

Building your network is easier than you think with a few pointers below:

  • Give before you need to receive:
    • If someone asks you for something and it is relatively easy to do, then do it.  Even if it isn’t that easy to do, try to do it.
    • Practically: if you aren’t comfortable in doing the favour, then don’t; You want to make sure you uphold your values.  And don’t do it because you expect to call in the favor some day, do it because you want to genuinely build your network and be helpful.
  • Be genuinely interested:
    • People usually have interesting stories to share and if you can find your connection point to that person it is usually easier to do so if you are genuinely interested in that person and that interest you shared
    • Practically: a simple note that asks how they are doing and providing a quick status update on what you’re doing is sometimes all it takes.  Ask about a detail of the original connection or previous discussion thta you had with them
  • Keep connected:
    • My memory isn’t as good as it used to be and your network grows over time so it’s hard to stay connected
    • You should stay try to stay connected a few times a year and ideally increasing in frequency as that connection becomes stronger
    • Practically: set up a recurring calendar invite to connect with every person in your network.
      • Try to do so a few times a year (ideally more than twice a year)
      • Connecting doesn’t have to be in person or by phone, it can be a simple text, email or social media interaction

So hopefully this will help you build your network and make your networking more effective!


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