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Mama always said, “Network, network, network.”
Well, at least my mama did.
And I always said, “No way!” Cocktail parties, small talk, and
passing out business cards is the stuff of nightmares for most
people, and for good reason: They don’t lead anywhere.
They’re what J. Kelly Hoey, former lawyer, investor, networking
expert, and author of “Build
Your Dream Network: Forging Powerful Relationships in a
Hyper-connected World,” calls “random
acts of networking.”
But instead of spiraling in the opposite direction and claiming
that networking is dead, pointless, or outdated, she’s refined
the definition to reflect what it truly is: a way to go about
solving a problem. That simple redefinition was my aha!
moment that: 1. Mama was right. 2. I was kind of networking
already. 3. It could be fun.
By reframing it this way, networking shed its unappealing skin of
impersonal Linkedin messages and form emails to reveal the
beautiful, community-building connection machine underneath.
Hoey encourages her readers to scribble notes in the margins of
her book, highlight passages, and fold the pages, making her book
half manual, half journal. Among entertaining infographics and
engaging interviews with fascinating entrepreneurs and other
expert connectors, Hoey’s book is packed with highly applicable
Stop committing random acts of networking
These are the form InMail messages that lack focus, the coffee
meet-and-greets with no follow-up, the cocktail parties where you
spend the night in the corner on your phone, and the business
cards that end up in the recycling bin. Random acts of networking
leave you drained and no better off than when you started, while
“effective networking requires purpose and preparation.”
Use what Hoey calls the “why filter” and separate useful
opportunities from the rest of the distractions and noise. Your
answers to the why filter will leave you better equipped to
network with a purpose and stop wasting time.
Hoey lists her four why filter questions in her book, so I
decided to try them out myself. I just published a novel, so I’m
attending more readings in the city and networking more. In one
week, I was invited to two different readings. I didn’t know
whether to attend both at the risk of wearing myself out that
week, only one (and how would I choose?), or none and suffer from
FOMO. So I asked myself Hoey’s questions:
- Is the opportunity aligned with my goal(s)?
- Will my participation add value to the other attendees and be
valuable for me?
- Does the opportunity expand my network and/or strengthen
- What does my gut say? (She is “a big believer in trusting
Using Hoey’s why filter made it easy to make a decision: My gut
said I should pick only one of the events and the other questions
helped me choose which of the two to attend. But that is only the
tip of the networking iceberg.
The goal comes first
Your networking process always starts with a goal. Next, you
decide what network can help you reach that goal. Finally, you
figure out the tactic.
Spoiler alert: if you don’t have a solid goal yet, you can
use your network to figure out what it should be. Research, talk
to a mentor or coach, or reach out to your community to see what
they think your strengths are and what you should be pursuing.
As Hoey says, “the new question is not what you know but Who
knows what you know?” When your network knows what you know,
they are better equipped to make suggestions and connections.
Having a clear goal in mind will also help you formulate a plan.
Once you have a goal, you’ll be able to figure out who you need
to know to help you achieve it. If you already know that person,
get in touch. If not, it’s time to forge new, two-way
relationships. This doesn’t mean cold-calling a complete stranger
with a big ask. It means focusing on “strategy and communication
tactics after you’ve figured out whom you’re seeking help from.”
Always follow up
At a recent networking event Q&A, someone asked Hoey, “What’s
the one takeaway we should have from this?” and before the
question was even finished, Hoey responded, “Always follow up.”
In her book, she calls it “likely the most effective networking
tool.” Send a thank-you note. Update a connector if their help
landed you an interview, client, or job. Don’t leave people
guessing about whether their own networking is effective!
No one ever said networking was easy (if they did, they were
wrong). Like all things, it takes hard work and dedication. But
it should be fun. So instead of bemoaning the need to network,
approach it like any other problem and get out there and find a