Realising it’s not who you know and what they know, it’s who you know and who they know that matters.
We all have networks because we all know people (unless you are a hermit and have retreated to the cave and rolled the stone across the door).
You might be a natural net-worker, talking to everyone, getting them to do you a favour, doing them favours (you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours), or you might be reticent, not wanting to pester people, not wanting to be a nuisance.
Whatever, you need to read this page, you need to see the power of networking, you need to learn the biggest secret of a network and that is – it isn’t a network!
Most people ask their friends to “Keep your eyes and ears open and let me know if you hear anything about job vacancies”. That’s not a bad approach, but it’s far from the best!
The limitations are
- You are only going to hear about vacancies your friends think you want, they’ll naturally think you are looking for something similar to what you are doing now. If you give them a list of types of job, you’ll only confuse them and they won’t want to give you details of a job if they think it’s not right for you.
- You’ll only hear about vacancies near to home. Same reason, telling your friends you’re looking for a job in another town will cause confusion and you might not hear about things locally.
- Your friends are unlikely to ask their friends because they’re confused about what you want to do.
- If your friends do ask their friends, your message might not get relayed correctly, as will any message coming back to you.
- Your friends will tend to filter the message in any event, that is, if they don’t think you’d be interested, they won’t tell you.
- Your friends might forget to pass messages on or back.
- You will talk only to people you can trust to get things right and not to spread rumours or “badmouth” you.
So you talk to your best and trusted friends (say half a dozen), they talk to their best and trusted friends (also half a dozen), who in turn talk to their best and trusted friends (also half a dozen). Even if it works, and it might, just, the maths give you a network of 6x6x6=216.
That’s a reasonable amount of people, but we need more to make it effective and we need a more efficient way of controlling the communication.
Let’s change the question we ask our friends.
Rather than “Keep your eyes and ears open”
we could use, “Who do you know who might have information about … ?”
(At this point don’t worry what information we are asking about, we’ll cover that later. Sufficient to say it isn’t about job vacancies!).
Then follow up the question with, “Would it be ok if I talked to them direct? Could I use your name to let them know how I got to know them or could you introduce me fairly soon?”
Once you are speaking to them (this is the secret!), they join your circle of contacts. You don’t have a problem with messages being passed backwards and forwards being corrupted. You have 100% control of the information and, of course, as well as gathering information, you will be asking them the same question.
Straight away you can see it doesn’t matter what people know, initially, it’s who they know.
How many people do you know who you could ask that question?
We all know around 200 people, we might not immediately know their phone numbers, where they live or who they work for. We will be finding these things out during the course of conversation.
How does the math work out now? Your immediate contacts, 200. Their contacts 200 and theirs, another 200.
Even after the first level of connection you have 200×200=40,000. Now that’s a better figure to work with.
Take it out one more level, 40,000×200= 8,000,000. Crazy figures, yes. If you were to make contact with them all it would take you from now to nearly eternity and where would you store all the notes you are going to make?
Obviously you won’t.
It’s the potential, within that number, of being introduced to someone who is a hiring manager with a vacancy or a problem you can solve.
That’s the important bit!