The First Commandment:
Being there is everything.
The first step to being able to network is showing up. That means: get business cards, join professional networks, create accounts on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or Xing, and go to networking events. Today’s digital networks in particular offer numerous opportunities to network with people in a very targeted way.
The Second Commandment:
Find topics with which you are, or want to be perceived as, an expert. Write a short article on one of these subjects, like posts from others, and start discussions.
The Third Commandment:
Quality over quantity.
1000 new contacts do not automatically mean good and sustainable networking. If a person is of interest to you, write them personally—no novels!—and meet them. There’s more to networking than a place in the contact list. The chemistry must be right, you need to be willing to offer support, and you should know what you expect from the contact.
The Fourth Commandment:
Substance beats position.
Not the position, but the substance is decisive. People with important positions are often more in demand than those who have perhaps been doing their job for several decades. It is often much more helpful to contact these experts to get advice than those who might represent them. The position can open doors, but content fills the space.
The Fifth Commandment:
Avoid the “Definitely Principle”.
You get to know each other at an event and “definitely” agree to meet very soon. Weeks go by. Months. Nothing happens. Because everything else is (apparently) more important. The same applies to possible joint projects—the “Definitely Principle” strikes often. Before promises are rashly made, it is important to consider if you can actually realize what you have promised. Unfulfilled expectations are about as attractive as going to the sauna with your boss.
The Sixth Commandment:
Overestimate yourself (in healthy doses).
“I can do it! I can do it!” This sentence has often brought me to the brink of despair, but at least as often has saved me. A healthy portion of overconfidence is an important prerequisite which can be learned from the wannabes among the networking types; however, if you take a closer look and listen, it quickly becomes clear that their contact list is full, but nobody answers their calls. That’s why the emphasis in the Sixth Commandment is on healthy.
The Seventh Commandment:
Honesty and authenticity win.
Only seemingly contradictory to the Sixth Commandment, if you want to benefit from networking in the long run, be honest and genuine. Genuine interest in the other person is just as helpful as curiosity. Building a good network does not mean playing business card roulette at events, but having a feel for people, their stories, and interests. Honesty also means giving honest and genuine trust and not abusing the trust of others.
The Eighth Commandment:
Networking is long distance, not a sprint.
Short-term thinking does not help with sustainable networking. There are contacts you only meet a few times a year, but nevertheless both sides might find a moment to sing a “Hallelujah!” about making the acquaintance. This moment can happen by chance after a short or long time, but is high-impact. He who runs knows: endurance and patience bring more lasting results than short-term sprints.
The Ninth Commandment:
Never eat alone, but always go to networking events alone.
Dare yourself to go alone into a room full of people you don’t know and try to talk to them. If you go to events in pairs or even in a group, you miss the chance to get to know other people. As a variant of the Ninth Commandment, you can also follow the rule of thumb: never lunch alone! Find people you would like to have in your network and arrange lunch with them.
The Tenth Commandment:
Giving is more important than taking.
Networking is not a one-way street. It is not the goal to build a network so that you have as many people as possible who are somehow useful to you. Networks work especially well when everyone is willing to give more than they take. And if you and everyone else keep the Tenth Commandment, at the end of the day everyone will have more than they gave.
Tijen Onaran: Die Netzwerkbibel (Springer; only in German for now) is available here.
Tags: Empowerment, Entrepreneur, Howto, Insights, Inspiration, Rolemodel, Skills