When I wrote “The Networking Mindset for People Who Hate Networking” I said that networking, in its simplest form, is about creating and sustaining relationships. That’s it. It is relational and frankly, if you think about it more broadly, isn’t everything you do about building, nurturing and sustaining vital relationships?
If you are like many people, the thought of networking can create angst, anxiety and dread. However, engaging in networking activities is critical. You have a lot to gain by doing so and potentially a lot to lose if you don’t network.
The benefits of networking consist of increasing your opportunities, increasing your shared knowledge, increasing your connections and increasing your visibility; being at the table. And the losses are just the opposite; if you don’t network you will miss opportunities, miss shared knowledge, miss vital connections, and lose your spot at the table; becoming invisible. The benefits of networking clearly outweigh the losses of not networking.
So here is the question. If we know that networking is critical to our professional growth how often and how much time should we spend doing it? In a podcast by Dr. Ivan Miser, Founder of BNI (Business Networking International), Miser reports that based on a survey of over 12,000 business professionals from every populated continent in the world, he arrived at a definitive answer to the question on how much time should you spend networking.
The study found that people who said “networking played a role” in their success spent an average of 6.3 hours a week participating in networking activities. On the other hand, the majority of people who claimed that “networking did NOT play a role” in their success spent only 2 hours or less per week developing their network.
He then went on to say that the optimal time spent networking to yield over 50% of your business is 8-10 hours per week. Now when you hear that statement you might say, Wow! That sounds like a lot of time and how can I possibly carve 8-10 hours a week into my already jammed schedule?
So let’s try it from this angle; imagine if you could increase your networking engagement time with the things that you are already doing and what if you tossed in a little more time? You would be on your way to reaching the 8-10 hours per week goal. Here are some ideas to incorporate and execute to get this plan going:
1. If you are already part of a networking group, ensure that you take advantage of your time spent at those events or meetings. Be prepared and have a goal such as connecting with (3) people.
2. Set up an in-person 1:1 meeting with a connection each week and go for coffee, a walk or meet up for a drink.
3. Set up (1) virtual 1:1 a week with a connection that you cannot meet with face to face. Meet by phone, Skype or face time.
4. Get on a sub list with a BNI chapter in your community to meet and network with local business professionals. Commit to being a sub once a month.
5. Spend 20 minutes per day on LinkedIn. Post, re-post and comment on articles that are related to your business and/or your interests.
6. Maximize your social and recreational activities. Engage with those that you are with - ask questions, open up and work on building those relationships.
7. Work on having a quality 45 second commercials/pitch about who you are, what you do and what you are looking for so that you can use and speak to at any time. Practice your pitch. According to Kristen Lauletti , here are the 41 Best Elevator Pitches.
8. Connect and update your potential and former clients and connections with a link to an article you wrote or one that you read that would be of interest to them and
9. Be bold - ask for introductions to potential referrals and/or employers.
When I started crafting this list I thought to myself -- these are doable. If you select 2-3 of these on the list you will intentionally work on increasing your weekly networking time and you will see the positive results they produce.
According to Dennis Waitley, “If you are not networking, you’re not working.” Use this list of tips and you’ll be one of the successful people for whom networking works.