There are few discussions that get the attention of young people today than the question of networking. Some have even built a semi-career on teaching about places to go, the shape and color business cards should be, and how to dress to these events.
Several people want to be in the midst of ‘high achievers’ and roll with those that matter in their professions.
However while this can work serendipitously and often do work fortuitously, going to events and dropping cards that are soon forgotten is not the most effective way of building your network.
When I get asked this question, a reminder of events in secondary school come to mind. Anyone who has been to a secondary school knows that there are exclusive groups. Teenagers are legends at creating factions. And it could be a coterie of anything. Hothead clique. Football clique. Fine girls cliques. Fine boys clique. Chess Clique. Churchpeople clique.
Now, the trick to being a part of any clique is offering what those in that clique love. I remember a classmate once wanted to be in a hothead clique and brought the first Nelkon and Parker textbook I ever saw to school. Want to get access to the book? You gotta go through him and explain some stuff in the Physics text to him. Another was often excluded from the football team and he brought a brand new ‘heath’ ball to school. Often well-kitted too. He became the first name on the team. Looking back, I hate to admit it was the reason I was no longer a regular.
It’s a vital lesson in networking: Become first and foremost a person of value and the network will be available whenever you need it.
Too many people spend time looking for the right people without asking themselves why those people will be interested in them. Deep sustainable networking is being so good that you are not so easily ignored.
And it is one of the lessons I teach in my Personal Finance class. The ‘LinkedIn’ trick: What do the people you want to be like have in common? What do they need? Go get those things and watch them contact you.
This could not be truer today in the age of the internet when showcasing what you know and can do can be exposed to millions across borders. Focus on developing yourself, creating and adding value, and the network will emerge. The people you could not get meetings with will start trying to network WITH you.
People aren’t interested in knowing you until you are useful to them.
That’s the way of the world.
Align with it.