Networking Etiquette & The Value of Loose Connections

March 5, 2012

Those of you who follow my blog know that I am a huge, huge proponent of business NETWORKING. These days, life moves at such an alarming pace that the pressure is on to find ways to increase one’s reach to others who one normally would not be available to them; Peers, Industry Groups, Frenemies (those who work collaboratively but who are also competitors) and other less obvious and more distant national and global connections who one day could very well present direct or indirect opportunity.

Networking has to be one of those ‘have to do’ self deliverables one incorporates into one’s day to day no matter what place one finds oneself in one’s life. An invaluable tool for keeping yourself front and centre of what going on in your field, networking is at the nucleus of the personal branding process.

Specifically, personal branding through networking is like buying an insurance policy for ones future career development -Think of it this way. About 80% of positions (especially mid to senior/executive) never make it out on to the open market -that’s always been true!!! Often the most intriguing positions go to referrals, to a friend of a friend, an ex-colleague. Guess what, to someone within someone’s NETWORK. There’s those pesky networks again, go figure….

One makes about 5 job moves in a career. Laying a strong networking foundation even if one is not immediately in the job market is exactly the time to be building that insurance policy. It’s just smart and good common sense.

As a specialised Recruiter to Retail, Change Management, Strategic Sourcing and Supply Chain, the first thing Argentus does is review a candidate’s profile on LinkedIn to ensure their branding is complete and robust with keywords and such. We counsel our candidates to really work on building their network as fast and as widely as possible because it’s the LOOSE connections – the 3rd’s and wider, where the really interesting stuff is happening. Those connections one is tight with know you and already have you in their network – One should be focusing on building and enriching one’s network to those wider connections. Groups are really invaluable for this.

I’ve done a huge amount of research and reading on the value of loose connections in networking and I am learning to adopt an out of the box thinking approach to building my own network. I have seen the results first hand. It’s really exciting. I haven’t been timid about making connections like I used to be and it has been a pleasant surprise. I have grown my network exponentially over the last few months and captured interest (actual bonafide business) from clients in Logistics and Procurement as well as Retail & Wholesale companies. So I speak from experience, networking really does work. Networking has huge intrinsic value and I now push myself every day to invite at least 12 people into my network.

But here’s something I learned – no-one gives you a handbook. There’s a definite etiquette about inviting someone into your network if you really want to get serious about it. The spray and splatter approach does NOT work. “I’d like to add you to my professional…” has lost its original lustre – boring. Chances are if you default to the standard “I’d like to add you…” line, I predict over 50% of your invitations will get ignored. Guaranteed, if you say someone is a “friend…”in the inviation and they are not, you are gone.

LinkedIn users are savvier and way too busy to clog up their network with people they consider irrelevant and who don’t give them a good reason to join them. In fact, there has of late I understand been a bit of an unfortunate backlash as some members are being somewhat discriminatory about who they invite and who they accept into their network.

Why you ask? Well, it really takes the right preparatory work and care in the inviting process to get the result. It takes the right ingenuity to give someone you are hoping to invite into your network a really good reason to accept your invitation. Take a few minutes to put together a warm and meaningful three line message to the individual explaining why you are inviting them into your network and what value it will bring to them and you. Addressing them by name is a must. You’d be surprised taking a bit more time upfront will give you way better results.

Over and Out
Bronwen

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