Here’s my definition to the frequently asked question, “What is networking?” It is an active, dynamic process that links people into mutually beneficial relationships to build another vital kind of wealth: social capital.
• Active – You cannot sit back and wait to be contacted or approached. You have to make it happen! The knight or princess on the white horse will not drive up to your door with referrals or job offers. You have to take the initiative.
• Dynamic – No two interchanges are the same. You have to keep up with your industry, your business, your company, your community, your friends, and, most of all, you have to hone your techniques continually so you can apply them universally.
• A process – Networking is a series of hierarchical actions and interactions that leads to an end: a result, a solution, a relationship, an answer, a sale, a job.
• Links – The process connects, bonds and couples people with one another. Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link so is your network only as strong as your weakest link.
• Mutually beneficial relationships – Networking is as much about giving as it is about getting. You and people you connect with and connect to others need to mutually profit from the interactions to make it work. Just as you can’t take money from your savings account until you deposit it, you can’t take from the universe until you have helped others. And you don’t need to keep track because the natural law of reciprocity makes sure you will get when you give.
• Social capital – This kind of wealth helps you amass financial capital. Who you know is more important up front than what you know. Advanced degrees and experience seldom open doors for you; people do that.