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Networking with a Purpose

Networking with a Purpose
The Development Leadership Consortium
Continuing Fellows Reception – January 31, 2013

In no small part, the DLC was created in 1994 to help young professionals in the field of development – or more accurately, advancement – begin to develop utilize a professional network.  Succeeding generations of our alumni may or may not have learned to continue this enterprise, but there is not a lot of evidence that they have optimally used our own organization as a device for doing so, hence this evening’s reception.

Here is my own definition of the term:

“Networking is the conscious expansion and maintenance of a group of people who know you, respect you, will pay attention to what you say, respond to you, and would be prepared to help you in one way or another if asked.”

Tonight we are talking about a professional network.

1.    What can a professional network do for you?

There are two really important benefits from a strong network:

  •  It can help you attain visibility, gain name recognition, establish a level of acknowledgement by others, in other words it can help build your personal brand
    • What do you want to be known for?
    • How do you articulate this to others?

What can you validate through your accomplishments?

  • Just as important, it can provide a source to give you help when you need it
  • Seeking a new job
  • Seeking advice, especially professional advice
  • Seeking employees

Referring job-seekers

2.    What are the costs?

Do not be confused: As you build and use your network, you will find that it creates a two-way street.  If you want the benefits, you have to be prepared to put in the effort to make it succeed.

  • It requires time and thoughtful effort.  If all you want is names, that’s easy enough, but that is no guarantee that people will pay any attention to you.  You need the right names, and you have to build a communications program.
  • It often requires admission of vulnerability.  It’s hard to ask for help without crossing that line!
  • You can over-expose yourself, and tire out your friends.  They might be interested to know that you have a family, but they really don’t want to know your children’s names or see photographs from their most recent birthday parties.  Keep things professional, as well as relevant.
  • If done badly, it can turn people off.  Think about that brand thing again.  Don’t be obnoxious; keep politics out of it; don’t seem greedy or self-obsessed; proof-read your work.  Use it regularly but moderately.

It obligates you to reciprocity, at the least.  If you ask for help, you must anticipate people coming back to you for the same – and not necessarily the same people you have received help from.

3.    How can you build your network?

  • Join organizations like the DLC.  This entitles you to address the entire list as “one of them.”  Taken to the extreme, of course, this includes the entire alumni population of your alma mater, so exercise that thoughtful effort I referred to earlier.
  • Capture each new relationship as it occurs.  If, like me, you have a tendency to throw business cards into a box for later entry into your database, you will find it more difficult to succeed at building your network.
  • When you enter that contact data, make some notes.  I use Outlook, as well as LinkedIn to catalog my network, and these help me remember how I know the person; Outlook has a nice box for notes, and LinkedIn provides a lot of helpful background.

Utilize various lists, in subsets as appropriate, to “reach out”.  It is appropriate to initiate communication and activity, and in fact that will say something about you to others.

4.    What must you do to maintain your network?

  • Communicate with your contacts frequently enough to remind them that you are alive and well, and that your intelligent mind is thriving.  There are two basic ways to do this:
  • Mass communications (Kevin LaManna is going to speak in a few minutes on this, so I will defer to him…)
  • Personal communications – this means selectively drawing from your list(s) and contacting people one at a time (or at least in ways that appear to be singular communications).
  • Meet with them personally.  Any politician will tell you that there is no substitute for direct eye contact and pressing the flesh, and as advancement professionals, we know this too, so employ it to your own advantage!
  • Attend selected events – You have to make trade-off decisions about this, whether they give you the exposure and opportunity to connect that you need, and whether they represent the best use of your time, your money, or your exposure.
  • Host/initiate careful events – This puts you in control of the audience (assuming the people you invite will attend) and the format and agenda, not to mention putting you in the leadership position.  Done well, this is extremely effective, because the various people there reinforce to one another your significance in the network.
  • Meet one-on-one – This is as basic as it gets, but one can only share so many meals and beers, so usually there must be a more focused purpose to such meetings, except to the extent that they overlap with your social network, which of course is fine, if you have the time.

5.    Here’s a question: Do you have an inner-circle?

My late father, who in his day and time was a consummate networker, told me that he always maintained what he called his “personal board of directors,”a small group of individuals to whom he could ask very personal and very self-centered questions.  I have utilized this concept in a couple of different models.

  • A group of somewhat older mentors – some of you will understand when I say that this is increasingly difficult for me to assemble…  however, over the years it has been very helpful to me.  (And by the way, it does not mean that they have to meet as a group!)
  • I now have a mastermind group – and you will have to Google this to learn about it, because we do not have time here, but it is a group of contemporaries who meet to help each other stay focused on their personal plans.

In brief, both of these models are based on your ability to put together a group of people who represent:

  • The ones you trust the most
  • The ones who support you unequivocally
  • The ones you want to see regularly and most frequently

The interesting thing, to me, about the things I am talking about is that I have said very little that you don’t already know.  The significance of this talk is the admonishment that you must manage it, or at best, it will happen sub optimally.  You cannot afford to lose that margin professionally.

6.     In closing, I offer a question for your consideration: How can you tell others how well you are doing without bragging?

This is a personal decision, obviously, but your personal board of directors won’t hesitate to give you their perspective.

——————–

And now, Kevin is going to tell us how to do most of this without ever leaving the comfort of our data systems.

Kevin LaManna, President of SocialRaise…

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