Thursday, July 26, 2007

Successful Networking Involves People, Ideas, and Goals

I had an epiphany recently.

Successful networking involves three things, working together: people, ideas, and goals.

People. Obviously, you can't network without connecting with people. Breakthroughs are a social act, after all. So talking to people is the absolute foundation of networking. But what do you talk to them about? Toll collectors talk to people all day long, but nobody would consider that networking. That's where ideas and goals come in.

Ideas. Ideas bring energy to your networking, and they bring a way to connect with people. A great idea will open doors for you. It transforms you from ordinary "Fred Jones who just wants to talk" to "Fred Jones who has an idea that could change the world and who is asking for guidance to make it happen." Well, maybe that's a little overblown, because the idea could be as simple as "I want to go back to school and become an Art teacher" or (even better) "I think a better way to teach Art would be to…" People love to hear about great ideas and they feel honored when you ask for their advice and guidance. The secret is passion. Come up with an idea you are passionate about, start talking to people about it and asking for their help to make it happen, and watch what happens.

Goals. Goals bring focus to your networking. Where do you want to go? What do you want to accomplish? Who do you need to know to do it? What do you need to know? Goals shouldn't be vague. "I want to have a job" is too vague to be useful. "I want to be head of Communications in a fast-growing high-tech firm in the Philadelphia area" is more to the point. You can tell whether or not your networking is moving you towards that goal. Goals and ideas are inter-related. Think of ideas as the key that will help open the door to achieving your goal. Well, that's not quite right, because a really great idea will transform your goals.

Well, my epiphany is obviously still in the formative stages. Is this a helpful way to think about networking?


Todd said...

I really agree with your comments, and the one that resonates the most with me is the idea of networking with goals...makes me wonder if random networking has value...?

Todd Cohen

Oliver Picher said...

Todd, good question. Under the category of "you never know how things will turn out", I think random networking does have value. Or, let me put that another way, if you know what your goal is, then having some networking that is completely divorced from your goal is just fine. It's been my experience that sometimes those "random pieces of the puzzle" eventually become the most meaningful encounters you can have.

Todd said...

Interesting comment Oliver-I guess my basic belief is that there is no bad networking-granted we have to be careful not waste time, but there is always someone valuable to meet.

Todd Cohen

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

This quote from James Carse's "Finite and Infinite Games" I found to be inspirational re: "random" [nothing's random] networking:

"To be playful is not to be trivial or frivolous, or to act as though nothing of consequence will happen. On the contrary, when we are playful with each other we relate as free persons, and the relationship is open to surprise; everything that happens is of consequence. It is, in fact, seriousness that closes itself to consequence, for seriousness is a dread of the unpredictable outcome of open possibility. To be serious is to press for a specified conclusion. To be playful is to allow for possibility whatever the cost to oneself."