A Network is a group or system of related or connected parts. The action form of Network is Networking – the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions.
Both the Network and Networking are important.
Most people are familiar with the principle of Six Degrees of Separation, where it has been proven that almost all human beings are no more than six people or contacts apart. But without an intentional strategy to build your network or to be involved in networking, Six Degrees of Separation is only a mathematical principle with little or no intrinsic value.
Think about it. Who do you prefer to do business with and provide referrals for? The usual answer is people you already know. The key is to get to personally know and connect with even more individuals. The more people you are directly connected with, the more people you will have inside your network – and also waiting just six contacts away from you.
The art of building a valuable network is strategic in nature – it does not happen by accident.
Successful networking is built on trust. Essentially, it is more about giving than getting. Inexperienced networkers have the attitude of what can I get from this group or person when, in fact, the opposite mental set must be present to build a long-term network. Yes, we must be strategic with the individuals and groups with whom we connect, but we must have in our heart: what can we give or contribute, not what can we take.
Networking is also about quality, not quantity. It took me several years to learn not to be anxious or frantic when attending networking events or opportunities. I used to try to meet as many people as possible. With that approach, I met everyone but really knew no one.
Building relationships takes time and effort. This holds true in the networking world. I have found that if I go to an event or attend some type of networking opportunity and connect (not meet) with just one or two individuals, my time has been well invested. The challenge is that today’s society wants us to think that the fast and the furious win the race. When building a network, being focused and intentional is far more productive.