By Tino Mantella
TLG President & CEO
Can you identify with either of the following scenarios? “Congratulations, you have a new job. Or “Congratulations, you are a steady performer and fully committed to your job of ten years.” Are there other circumstances related to your job that require you to keep your head down, ultimately losing all contact with the outside world?
Allow me to bring the above paragraph to life as it relates to losing, or never having a network outside of a limited group of office colleagues. Having been in the networking world for a few decades, I’ve seen or heard almost every reason/excuse why people never create a network or allow their outside network to go dormant. Then like Ground Hog Day, they emerge from the underground, and they see their shadow again.
There is nothing wrong with doing a tremendous job for your company. I applaud you. You’re the type of person I like to hire. Nevertheless, if you sacrifice elements of self-care and self-development, you are not benefiting yourself and likely not optimizing your potential for the company.
Before I espouse my beliefs about networking, I’d like to draw a differentiation between productive and unproductive networking.
Unproductive networking takes many forms:
- You attend an event for no reason other than because someone asked you to, and there is little to no value to you or the company.
- You attend an event only to hang out with two people you knew before going.
- You attend an event with a speaker ready to give you boatloads of wisdom, and you hang out at the bar, in the other room, with two friends you already knew.
I have seen all these developments more than once. Productive networking is when you attend an activity with a clear purpose. You might have identified and researched several people you want to meet and created a strategy. Or your plan could be to hear a speaker on a topic you would like to learn more about. You may also want to build your personal brand by serving on a panel or simply asking great questions.
There are many reasons to participate in productive networking. First, if you’re looking for your next job, you’ll want to build a network of mentors, sponsors, trusted advisors, and people from companies where you might want to seek employment later. I still receive a call at least once a week where someone had their head down and is now in a critical job search saying something like, “Can you help me build a network?” Isn’t it just a bit too late? You have mouths to feed and roads to travel, and while your peers are at the five-yard line of the opposing team, you’re still in your own territory! Productive networking is also a great way to learn about new things including future trends (if that’s your thing). And you can develop new and perhaps deeper relationships – some might last a lifetime.
You have my permission to pace yourself but get started! Remember, this is a marathon and not a sprint. I guarantee if you don’t have a solid network, at some point in your career you will be kicking yourself and asking, “What the heck have I been doing all these years?” If this is you, don’t be calling me! Well, I am a nice guy so you can still call me… but I will ask you what the heck you’ve been doing all these years!