“It’s not what you know; it’s who you know”
Your network enriches your life in oh, so many ways
Many moons ago, a friend gave me some great advice about building relationships that I value to this day for how it enhanced my personal and professional life. Networking has helped me find every job I’ve had with one exception—the first one. That shouldn’t be a surprise: 85% of jobs filled via networking, according to a survey by Performance-based Hiring.
Perhaps more importantly, my value to clients and employers increases because I learn so much from my relationships that’s not in any textbook or course. My resources become invaluable, pre-screened assets to any project. I know where to get answers and which vendor is best qualified for a task. And it all comes easily because it’s an ongoing hobby that I enjoy doing.
Best advice ever
My friend was a car dealer – and a very unusual one at that. He dressed liked he worked at a Steak and Shake restaurant. Every day. He wore the basic uniform, reflecting “In Sight It Must Be Right”: white shirt, narrow black tie, black pants and topped it with his own twist: a comfortable, beige cardigan.
His “filing cabinet” was on his giant brown, wooden desk; loose papers covering the entire surface that looked a little like several decks of cards that were partially shuffled. I will never understand how he managed to find anything, but he always could put his fingers on whatever he sought.
I would go down to the dealership on Saturdays to hang out with Kurt. Ask him anything and he had an opinion and so much wisdom. Separated from my family by nearly a thousand miles, I adopted him. Or he adopted me.
Taking advice and creating a lifelong habit
One of the most memorable pieces of advice that has always stuck with me was when he told me to start keeping track of everyone I met with index cards. He was into “networking” before it was a popular word. He went further, telling me to write down notes about how, when and where I met each person. I couldn’t begin to realize how much his recommendation would mean to me.
I found that in just a couple of years, I needed a bumper sticker to strengthen my box jammed with about 1,000 tattered cards. I added people and places I needed and wanted to remember: vendors, clients, prospects, doctors, shops, favorite dives and fancy restaurants, small and large hotels; people I met at trade shows and conferences, workshops, neighborhood groups and in classes. My resources included freelancers, plumbers, painters, printers and premium companies.
The list continued to grow until it gravitated to two large Rolodex rotary files. Contacts at call and fulfillment centers, payment processors, television, radio and print production companies, wineries and travel agencies, corporate gift suppliers and graphic designers extended my capabilities to get the job done.
Today, the numbers of contacts I’ve met through social media grow at a faster rate than ever before.
It doesn’t take an extrovert to be successful at networking. We meet people where we shop, go to school, in our social organizations and at our jobs. Through those activities, we meet even more people. Our friends introduce us to their friends. We choose and work with vendors for our personal and professional services. Many of these contacts have the potential to help us be more valuable.
What is remarkable about this habit is that what I think is luck really is the good fortune from my meager efforts to keep in touch with colleagues who have become dear friends. I wonder what my experience would be like if I put more time into nurturing my relationships.
New twist on the best advice ever: categorizing
Over the years, I’ve averaged 5-10 new names per week and transferred those records to different software solutions. Like many of today’s professionals, I use contact management software, for quick retrieval. Categories vary by discipline or trade show. In a software program like Outlook, I categorize contacts by project, client, association, prospects, family interests, holiday lists and more. Doing this just makes my life a little easier and I love getting answers fast.
Since not everyone I meet connects on LinkedIn, my database is more complete. LinkedIn’s usefulness is tremendous for allowing me to keep up with my connections as they get new jobs, move to new cities and change email addresses. But for day-to-day living, I rely on my database. It’s another good habit to periodically download LinkedIn contacts for offline use.
“Watering the plants”
As a girlfriend and I were headed out to meet another colleague for drinks, her daughter asked where we were going. Her reply was that we were going to “water the plants,” an expression for nurturing our friendship. I have always loved what a perfect image that conjures of activities to build a relationship with neighbors, coworkers and prospects.
Use LinkedIn to find your Dream 100
Some or all of your target group of 100 prospects, vendors and partners who could be the tipping point for your business ~ or making you dreams come true ~ are on LinkedIn. Reach out to them here. Follow their writing, share their posts and “water the plants” to build relationships that help you and your connections.
Start early, but it’s never too late. As you get better at what you do, your contacts will become more expert as well, providing a powerful personal advantage. As Reid Hoffman, Founder of LinkedIn, put it “Your network is the people who want to help you and you want to help them.”
Your net worth is in your networks.– SEO Expert Bill Widmer