Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Notes on Building Your Network

Below are a few rough notes from my session on Monday about building your network. A special welcome to first-time visitors whom I met that evening.

Why would anyone want or need to build a network? And I emphasize the verb build, as opposed to the mere activity of networking. It’s not just something you should do when job-hunting—a classic mistake made by many—or important for those in sales & business development, another common misconception.

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” --Jane Howard, British actress & novelist.

I’ve had the good fortune to spend several years of my career in various places where the concept of networks were carried to a high art.

  • Covering Capitol Hill in my 20s.
  • Working later at a university in the Alumni Office, where you learn that friendraising MUST precede fundraising
  • Shared offices for a few years with a search & outplacement firm, where I picked up lots of insight about network-building around the watercooler.
  • General business reporting background.
A good network should provide you many crucial things, among which are listening posts and at least a couple of walking encyclopedias. Who are yours?

So let’s go back to that Jane Howard quote and pay attention to that term “tribes.” You might also know it as “affinity groups.” Building your network should begin there.

Types of Tribes or Affinity Groups

  • Schools you attended, especially college
  • Former employers (IBM and McKinsey alums are famously tight)
  • Places you’re from
  • Industries/sectors you work in or want to work in
  • Ethnic groups

The strongest and largest networks come from combining the power of in-person and online networking. Each alone has its limits. When combined, they reinforce each other. Remember, every interaction you have in person or online represents a chance for you to shine, or not.

You should always be developing superchampions (friends, mentors, former and current clients) who can become your sales force. How do you find/grow them? And remember the power of the second tier of your network, the people who your contacts know. There's often gold to be found there.

UPDATE: My friend Valdis Krebs, the guru of gurus on network mapping, recently posted this interesting exploration of how some people use their personal networks in an especially mindful manner. You can review an earlier mention of him here.


At 5:29 PM, Blogger Kim said...

John, I would have loved to have listened to you again. You speak in a way that resonates.

Someone told me the other day that they've never seen someone network the way I do. I simply think I am absorbing from people who know more and sharing with those who know less. I am proud of the friends I've made.

For me? I have no ulterior motive other than lifelong learning. I cherish what I can learn and teach along the way. It's amazing even the number of fellow writers I've met simply from interacting on your blog in the same space. (shout to Pat, Kristine, Diane, Art, and most recently, Kass)...

Do I have an ulterior motive? Sure. I want to learn and share. I think once everyone realizes the motive is pure, it all falls into place.

That's how I network.

At 5:32 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Kim, I couldn't possibly have captured what it's all about, or should be, than you've just done. That's it precisely. Lifelong learning is at the heart of it. And writers must be learning machines. If you love learning and are curious about people, how can you not want to meet, stay in touch with, and learn from them? It does seem to be a completely natural thing to me also. The best thing of all is how likeminded folks find each other. That's the thing that gives me the most joy. Thanks as always for adding your take, Kim. This blog just wouldn't be the same without you.


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