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Networking: Its Not What You Can Get Its How You Can Help?

by Paramjit Mahli

To my mind networking has always conjured up sleezy car salesmen, people mindlessly exchanging cards, having to put on ‘the face’ for your employer, or the other extreme, the old boys’ club, where outsiders could only wistfully hope that someday they would be allowed into the inner circle. Now that I have changed careers from journalism to owning my own business, I have come to understand it is actually not so, rather it’s a lot more and when you get to the very heart of it, it is downright sincere: building relationships. Of course this to my mind growing up in Birmingham, second generation British Asian, transported to New York of all places! Networking, I have to confess has come to my rescue several times, including when it came not just getting my green card but how to get it.

That is when it finally clicked that networking is all about people skills, building communities, online and offline communities, forming relationships, that often result in making good friends along the way, and it all, of course, begins by making an effort to become a good resource with the person with whom you are networking.

Bottomline, regardless of gender, geography, ethnicity, people do business with people whom they know and trust. Yet, with all the demands on our time made by our professional and personal lives, not only is it tempting to designate networking a bottom-of-the-list priority but so easy to ignore. Like personal relationships, networking takes time, effort and solid commitment.

Expert and author of Million Dollar Networking Andrea Nirenberg says,

‘Everyday we should be connecting with people whether by email or in meeting in person. Most of us overlook professional development events, meeting people for coffee/tea, all as part of networking and often view networking events as only where business cards are exchanged’.

When done effectively, networking accomplishes several tasks: finding a job, finding new clients, turning prospects into clients, professional development, forming strategic alliances, finding good referral sources for your business, just to list a few.

Typically we all have different circles of networks. Think three circles: a large one, then another one in it and another in the middle circle; the outer circles mostly consists of people we are just getting to know or have just met for the first time. When we meet these people mostly the discussion revolves round business or there are synergies between the two of you.

The inner circle often consists of people you have seen several times, such as a bar function, or networking group that meets once a week or month. These people have a clear idea of what you and your firm does, and frequently refer their friends and/or colleagues to you for business. These people are great resources, when you need help outside of your area of expertise.

Your central circle is composed of people who actively help you, they can be close friends, business acquaintances, clients, basically anybody you have made an effort to get to know. How long it takes to build this relationship varies from case to case. But these folks are your true supporters, they have established trust and confidence.

To maintain your network you need to keep lines of communications open with those individuals in the middle and inner circle. This is where most people drop the ball: they meet, have some sort of connect and then lack in follow up.

Two immediate strategies to apply immediately are:

  1. Immediately after the event, usually the next day, send a handwritten note or card, reiterating something of interest to both of you from the conversation and express your interest in keeping in touch. Include your business card. Handwritten notes are lot more effective than email thank yous.
  2. After a fortnight has passed, contact that person and arrange to meet for tea or coffee.

Most of us, no matter how strong or weak, have some networks in place; we belong to industry groups, associations, chambers of commerce and peers. What is key is to keep these networks alive by becoming a valuable resource to them.

There are several ways to do this:

  • Find something to add value to the relationship quickly, such as sending them a link to an article.
  • Introduce them to a referral source that may be of value to them.
  • Agree on regular intervals to maintain contact, possibly every three months.
  • Invite them to a company event, or another networking event.
  • Don’t let your company tickets go to waste. It is a great way of ‘keeping in touch marketing’.
  • Be honest: discuss how you and your networking partner can be help each other in further developing your networks.
  • Don’t forget birthday cards, anniversary cards and thank you notes. People who remember them they go a long way.
  • Send a note congratulating them on a promotion.

All this involves time, and being consistent in all your efforts. You want to stay in touch rather than getting in touch with them when you are desperate. Bottomline, networking does produce results, the more people know you and your business, and importantly the more they trust you, they will feel confident in referring business to you.


Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a
Keith Ferrazzi
Nonstop Networking: How To Improve Your Life, Luck and Career,
Perfecting Your Pitch,
Nancy Michaels

This article is reprinted with permission from the October 2007 issue in Women In Law. 2007 ALM Properties, Inc. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.

About The Author

Paramjit Mahli of Sun Communications Group is a former journalist who has worked with international news organisations including CNN Business News, and now helps small to mid-sized law firms get in front of their target markets effectively, efficiently, and expeditiously. Her job is to let the lawyers do what they do best practise law while she takes care of business development.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.