Posted by: G. Lane Cavalier | May 1, 2007

Networking: Non-Traditional Networking – Part 6

This is Part 6 of a ?? Part Series on Non-Traditional Networking Ideas:  (PS – The ?? exist because I have no clue as to how many parts there will be I currently have 9 outlined, but keep thinking of new one’s everyday)

**** Network on Different Levels *******

I want to start by thanking “GW” for really helping me by putting a discussion into a more pragmatic and thoughtful approach for this topic today.

Two of the common terms that come up in networking is “Discernment” and “Network Foundations.”  These terms can roughly be thought of as:

Discernment – The ability to evaluate a network contact for their value and responsiveness to your needs and the needs of other members of your network.  Basically, do they reply to requests and are they willing to give back.

Network Foundations – The core “trusted advisers” in your network.  These are the people who provide the basis for all networking activities.  The foundation of your network are the people who aren’t transient members, but the people who you think of immediately as the “inner circle” of your network.

These terms are critical in understanding the concept of “Levels of Networking”

Networking is basically a way of sharing ideas and thoughts, in the Perfect World scenario, we would be able to know everything of significance about everyone in our network, but of course there is no such thing as a perfect world.

You must make decisions about how to invest your most limited networking resource – “Time”.  My major approach to this is by developing levels of networking.  You must use the concept of discernment to determine how and when to move individuals up through the categories to reach the Network Foundations level.  In my network, I consider the people who reach the personal and deep personal categories as the Foundations level. 

I break these levels of networking into 5 different categories:  Technical/Casual, Face-time, Business Experience, Personal, and Deep Personal.  I have tried to outline the expectations of each of these levels below:

Technical/Casual – This will make up a significant percentage of your network.  I would estimate my network is made up of roughly 50 to 60% in this category.  These individuals are people who you have probably met online or in a group setting.  You understand what their immediate networking needs are and hopefully they understand yours.  These individuals are generally more of a pass through to other networkers and are a valuable and thriving part of your network, though they may never for a myriad of reasons become much more than acquaintances.

Face-time – This will make up another significant portion of your network, I would say mine is approximately another 20% of my network.  These individuals are people you have met for a “beverage” or have had an opportunity to have a one-on-one dialogue with about subjects of common interest.  You have a better feel for how the person acts, presents themselves, and often a better understanding of what the person really needs out of you and your network.

Business Experience – This is probably the least controllable level of networking, but it makes up the people who you have actually worked with or had a significant business dealing with.  You should have a much better understanding of these individuals because you have seen them in “action.”  You have also had the opportunity to show them the type of person and individual you are.  These networking contacts are critical in the referral process, because they are in the sub-group they can actually recommend your work or you theirs to other referrals across the network.

Personal – This is the first level of the Trusted Adviser or Foundation network.  Your mentors are at a minimum included in this network.  You probably have a frequent communication with these individuals and often rely on these individuals to understand you as a person as well as just a network contact.  Conversations with these individuals because they happen regularly often can be about specific topics and can create a great deal of addition to you knowledge base about topics that are germane to your field or your job search.  You also probably share other interest with these individuals such as an occasional golf game or outside activity.

Deep Personal – This is the ultimate level of networking, you probably share not only your business and networking information with these individuals, but really would put them into a “close friend” category.  These individuals not only know the professional you, but often know key components of your social and home life.  It is not uncommon at this level for you to know each others family members (spouse, children), and you also probably share in social occasions with each other.  Once a relationship reaches this level it benefits both parties because it does allow for the opportunity to “vent, rant, and share you most outlandish ideas.” 

It is important to remember that at some point and time, the Foundation of your network is going to be the group that makes the biggest impact on your life.  I love having a large network and even more so, always look to move people through the stages of networking to get them to that level.  The reality is that to get to the Personal and Deep Personal levels take investment from both parties, so not everyone can be at that level, but that is fine.

A number of people in your network are probably happy with only having a technical/casual relationship with you. One common occurrence of value for both parties at the technical/casual level is recruiters.  They frankly don’t have the time to build those deep relationships with everyone in their network and it is something that needs to be respected and understood.

It is important that we learn that not everyone we meet will become or even wants to become a “Trusted Adviser” to us, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a relationship that provides value to both parties for a very long time.  It is equally important to learn to nurture the relationship that have the most mutual benefit to see what happens, one day you may find the “Most Trusted Adviser” out of someone who is currently just another member of your current network.

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