You’ve heard it often, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ This statement is largely true, but one also has to have the right skills and attitude, to be the right person in the right place.
To develop a network you need to network, right? This may seem obvious, but many of us, out of fear, passively wait for people to come to us, with the belief that ‘my talent and passion will attract others to me’. Wrong! While you are waiting, others are networking!
A network is how we establish our place within society’s business and social communities, and forms the vital link in creating awareness in others of who we are and what we do. As with any product, you cannot be referred for an opportunity if a person or company doesn’t know you exist! The more people and organisations that know and trust you, the greater the opportunities are for referrals of you and your services. A referral is free and often leads to work.
Networking is defined as, interaction with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. Consequently, networking by its very definition is a proactive and deliberate endeavour. No person has a network by accident. As with all things, some find networking easy and enjoyable, and others are intimidated by it, and even find the thought of it excruciating.
You do not have to be an extrovert or an entrepreneur to create a network and be taken seriously. You simply need the will and focus to do so. Think about this the next time you want to sleep in, or succumb to a lack of confidence; while you are sleeping, or playing small, someone else is networking and getting known. If they are skilled and reliable, it leads to the expansion of their network, while yours stagnates.
Think of how many times you have referred someone for his or her time, expertise, and advice. If you have a presence within your social and business communities, and are skilled and reliable, others will do the same for you. The important commodities are, skill and integrity. Because we work earnestly to create and maintain our networks, we will do nothing willingly to compromise our own credibility, by referring someone who may deliver. We will only refer someone if we are sure that they will deliver.
Remember, when you refer someone to someone else, it is as important to your network and credibility, as others referring people to you.
While you are creating and maintain your network, pay attention to the following:
ALWAYS reply to every email or telephone call (correspondence). NEVER delay and then use the excuse ‘Sorry for the delay, I have been busy’. If you are good at what you do, you will be BUSY!! No person is too busy to not give a prompt reply, even if it is to state that they are very busy at present and will address the correspondence in greater detail shortly.
If you live on planet earth, and want to grow your network, you will have a mobile phone and an email address. With these devices it takes no time to receive and reply promptly to all communications. A very revealing sign of a person’s professional persona is the speed and quality of their correspondence. If you know you will be away from your mobile or email for a period, simply set an auto reply so that the sender is not waiting for a reply believing that the delay is because you’re a flake.
If you are in negotiations for a job opportunity, whether you have offered a position or applied for one, DO NOT go AWOL by not checking your email and phone messages constantly. This is a deal-breaker, so don’t do it.
We live in a world that is quick to take and far slower to reciprocate the generosity of time and skill. If someone gives of their time or services, because you asked them for it, then thank them! ALWAYS send a follow up communication after meetings and negotiations. This maintains the momentum of the meeting and keeps your credibility intact.
Creating your network is one thing, maintaining it is where the long-term sustainability of it really resides. We’ve all been the recipients of a sales person who is extremely helpful, until they confirm our business and receive their commission cheque. The network equivalent of this is, when you don’t treat a person or company with the same attention and respect that you did when you wanted to make a good impression across the interview or negotiation table.
Even when a professional relationship naturally concludes once the business arrangement is complete, continue to treat the person or organisation with the same courtesy as when you wanted them to employ you, or give you a good price.
Grateful people are happy people, and are a joy to be around and do business with.
Let us revisit the statement ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. How about ‘because I know/have heard about you, I shan’t be using your services’. This may be because one hasn’t delivered on time or promises, (unreliable), or because someone has warned someone else against using your services. Either way, our credibility and reputation either builds or destroys our network.
Sir Donald Gordon, founder and former chairman of Liberty Life, and after whom The Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) in Johannesburg is named, said ‘remember that overnight success usually takes about 15 years’. Creating a sustainable network is no different. Growing our network takes time because it relies on other people’s trust in our competence and integrity. The more folk that trust and deem you competent, the larger your network!
Be humble, be honest, be reliable, and watch your network grow.
David Maclean | a Brief Biography
David Maclean is a mastering engineer, educator and business executive with two decades of experience in the music industry and tertiary education sector. David is the Director of SAE Institute South Africa and is based at their campus in Cape Town. The SAE Group has 54 campuses across the globe. David understands the attitudes and opinions of the industry professionals within the creative media industries and the educators and authorities within Higher Education in South Africa and abroad based on his unusual portfolio of skills in business, education and creative media technologies.