How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Focus on Networking Benefits
Cross and Thomas (2011) identify six key benefits of networking, and note that you should be able to access all of them from people in of your network:
Analyse your network for the benefits you seek from it. Do you have the right balance? If not, you need to re-balance your network. Cross and Thomas recommend firm de-layering and diversifying to get a better balance. They particularly suggest jettisoning the ‘de-energisers’, the 5% of people who cause 90% of your anxiety and seeking the energisers who positively get you going.
A person seems to have lots of 'friends' on Facebook but when they are looking for a job nobody seems to be able to help. They analyze the people and find that very few offer any tangible benefits at all. The person moves their attention to LinkedIn where they pay attention the different people and benefits they can gain. They join targeted discussion groups and move to side discussions with individuals. After three months of concentrated effort one of these people helps them find a good job.
A sales person has a list of contacts within a large customer company but never seems to get big orders. They review their contact list and reduce contact with several pleasant people who like to pass the time of day but are not well connected. They put more effort into cultivating connections to managers in target areas and the people who influence these. After a while, they land their first large order in years.
The main thing that people at work often think about as the benefit of networking is for finding work or getting promoted, for example:
It has been said that 1/3 of all jobs come from people you know, 1/3 are only advertised inside companies and 1/3 are from standard job adverts. In practice and particularly in times of job difficulty, it seems that more than ever jobs come via people you know. The same is true of other benefits. If you are well-connected with people who can offer the benefits you need, then this can pay off significantly.
When seeking benefits there are two types of people you may need to network with. First are the people who can deliver the benefits directly. The others are 'gatekeepers' or 'referencers' who may direct you or give you access to those who can deliver you the needed benefits.
This approach is different from the 'abundance' approach where you help everyone you can with the general hope that somebody will help you when you need it. For such networkers the idea of removing people from the network simply because they do not offer the right benefits can seem rather manipulative. The approach you should use depends both on your personal values and also on the extent to which is it possible to know the benefits needed and who, specifically can give them.
Note: The term 'benefit' here is very close to the word 'value', although different people interpret them differently, for example 'value' may have a more financial focus, although this is not always the case.
Cross, R. and Thomas R. (2011). A Smarter Way to Network, Harvard Business Review, July/August 2011