Building a network that really works for your business is about having a continuous audit of the ways people you know connect and create opportunity.
While most people agree with the cliché 'it's not what you know, it's who you know', it carries a lot more weight today as innovative collaborations can appear seemingly out of nowhere.
Janine Garner, entrepreneur and Fortune 500 mentor and author, told HuffPost Australia networking still matters – but it's the network leaders build around themselves that matters more.
"Building a network that works is both an art and a science. It is an art in that it requires basic human skills in communication, connection, authenticity and the ability to be 'in the present' and engaged with people and conversation," Garner said.
"Building a network strategically requires an ongoing analysis and audit of the people within the network and a sustained curiosity around the levels of diversity and connectivity within the group. It's about seeing the lines that connect people and ideas to create opportunity."
Sheree Rubinstein from One Roof told HuffPost Australia opportunities arise because people back people.
"It's not necessarily about the idea or the deal itself. It's about people believing in people. Whether you are applying for a job, acquiring new customers, building partnerships or asking for funding. People back people. Building a strong and far reaching network leads to the most exciting opportunities," Rubinstein said.
The art of 'good networking' is also about creating a good first impression.
"Remembering a person's name in the first encounter, giving that person your undivided attention, asking that person questions, listening to their answers and showing genuine interest are the best ways to create a good first impression."
British anthropologist Robin Dunbar has said there was a limit to the number of relationships humans could comfortably maintain – no more than 150.
Garner advises people to always identify the 'critical few.'
"That's the amount with which we could maintain stable relationships, remember each other's names, keep in contact and do each other favours. Anything larger than this and Dunbar believes results in the creation of other sub-groups and tribes," Garner said.
"Engage with a smaller group of people who providing quality thinking and behaviours. Individuals that can push and stretch thinking, that can open doors and teach mastery and knowledge. Identify the quality of people and stop obsessing about the quantity."
Rubinstein wants to encourage people to perceive networking as a long term investment: don't think about getting what you want from the first encounter.
"Successful networking requires constant nurturing and building a relationship over time. Game changing opportunities have arisen for me and One Roof through networking. But, sometimes, these opportunities come to the fore months or even years after I've first met someone and in ways I never anticipated."
Sheree Rubinstein's Networking Dos and Don'ts
- Networking is about striking up a conversation and conversations require people to listen. Take a genuine interest in others and ask them questions. Think about how you can help them not just about what you need from them.
- Don't over promise and under deliver. If you say you are going to do something (such as making an introduction) then stand by your word.
- Nurture a relationship over time. If you meet someone at a networking event follow up with an email. Check in with that person regularly. Invite them along to events with you.
- Don't shy away from contacting someone for a meeting or coffee. Most of the time people will say yes.
- Don't burn bridges easily as people talk. Always approach networking and meeting people with integrity and respect to others.
- View networking as long term opportunities not quick gains.
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