By Simone Andersen, Author of The Networking Book
For several years, networking has been a matter of establishing as many contacts as possible, handing out vast numbers of business cards and going to endless meetings.
That exercise cost a lot of time, made our networks complex and erratic and tired many networkers out - especially because they realized that the effort they made was not matched by corresponding gains.
Old-school networking sucks. The point is that there is an easier way that will enable your future networking activities in a more efficient and time-saving way.
This new method is called Networking Version 2.0, and it accounts for the fact that no one is able to maintain hundreds of contacts. We need a manageable and relevant mix of close and loose relations. However, we have to cut down on the time we spend on networking - although this should not detract from its overall positive results.
Networking Version 2.0 is built on two basic ideas:
1) A short-term strategy where you have to define a vision for how you want your network to help you out over the next year.
2) A long-term strategy where you have to qualify the networking process by identifying and using nodal points.
What is my vision?
• More often than not, our networking activities - and thus our gains - are decided by pure chance.
• Formulating a clear vision as to what you want to achieve through your network gives you visible guidelines that you can follow in a goal-oriented way.
• The world changes constantly. That is why your vision is assumed to be valid only one year on.
• You can work from a business perspective or a personal perspective - or a mix of both.
• The subjects you focus on could be education, a new job, setting up business, expanding your business or something very private you would like to achieve.
What do I need help for?
When your vision is ready, you must focus on your potential challenges: What do you need help for, what problems would be difficult to address on your own?
• The problem areas we need help for are often what puts a halt to our aspirations and visions. By facing this adversity, however, you can start breaking down the barriers.
• One phase of this process is to have the guts to tell your surroundings about your vision and your challenges. The advantage of expressing your vision is that whenever you talk about it you promote everyone’s awareness and enable your network to bid for solutions.
Who could be my helpers?
• Often contacts cannot be used as a direct source of help. They cannot necessarily get you an appointment with the managing director of your favorite company just like that. They may, however, be able to help you along by discussing your challenges or connecting you with present employees or former colleagues at the workplace, or people from similar companies.
Consider this process a part of a research phase that could bring you closer to your goal.
• A very important point to bear in mind: It is not only people you share profiles with and generally agree with that might prove helpful on your journey: Contacts with oblique approaches can be one’s eye-openers and offer extremely constructive guidance.
Long-term strategy - Nodal points
• Nodal points can be explained by referring to a flight map:
If you replace the destinations of the map with a person’s network, it is obvious that the contact has numerous incoming and outgoing contacts. A contact like that is called a nodal point. This contact reaches out to a great number of contexts and opportunities.
• Small destinations, on the other hand, may have just one route, here interpreted as a relation with a very limited network with little immediate access to contacts and opportunities.
• The point of the metaphor is that a nodal point represents a person, an organization or a network with an extremely high concentration of relations.
• If you have 2-5 nodal points in your network you are well off as these relations will reach out and offer much more diversity than your own network.
• Having effective nodal points means that you have to maintain only 2-5 important relations instead of keeping several hundred contacts alive. But do not forget: This relationship works both ways. You should always be available to your nodal point and be ready to help.
Networking Version 2.0 does not exclude you from being a member of sundry other networking groups and arrangements. It may even be helpful in detecting new potential nodes. Networking Version 2.0 is a guarantee that your network is operational without spending too much time on it.