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The 10 Commandments of Networking
Perhaps I am channeling Charlton Heston or maybe I have watched too many documentaries about Ancient Egypt. Whatever the reason is, I feel it is time to lay down some of my “commandments.” I get asked all the time, what advice I can give to a new networker. There isn't one specific piece of advice I would give. That's why I came up with the commandments. This list can serve as a basic manual for networking. They aren’t in any particular order as I feel they are all equally important. I couldn’t possibly choose which is more essential. Enjoy!
Commandment 1: Thou Shalt Return Phone Calls
Apart from being just basic business etiquette, communication is crucial to networking. Whether it’s a call, text, e-mail, letter, or carrier pigeon, you must reply. If someone waits 4 days to get back to me, it sends 2 signals. First, I am not important to them. Secondly, they are far too busy to be of any assistance. What good is a networker that can’t be reached? If you are so busy that you can’t be bothered to respond, you obviously don’t need any referrals from me. I do have I rule when it comes to phone calls though. If you don’t leave a message, I am not required to call you back. Make sure you set proper expectations on communication. Are they required to leave a message? What sort of time frame can they expect? Are there better/alternative ways to reach you? Let people know what to expect and you will have less to explain later.
Commandment 2: Thou Shalt Be Visible
Social media is all well and good to augment your networking effort. However, it is no substitute for face-to-face, human interaction. Get off your computer and be seen once in awhile. How else can you build a solid rapport with your sphere of influence? You must connect on a personal level, not just by being funny on Facebook. Look for local events or other ways to get in front of you adoring public! You'll be glad you did.
Commandment 3: Thou Shalt Not be Inflammatory
Hey, we all have opinions. However, in the world of networking, some opinions are better left to roll around in your mind. If you must express them, feel free to do so with friends, family, or even your therapist. Don’t get me wrong. I am the first person to complain about how easily people are “offended.” On the other hand, I have no sympathy for people who knowingly make comments that will cause problems and then get self-righteous about being attacked. You brought it on yourself. Things like politics and religion have no place in the business world. Keep it to yourself.
Commandment 4: Thou Shalt Share Information
What is the point of being a networker if you don’t collaborate and exchange information? These people kill me! I am not trying to steal your business. I am trying to learn. I understand there may be trade secrets you need to protect, and that’s fine. Surely, there is some nugget you can share with your adoring fans without making them beg. A network cannot be maintained when information only flows one way. Learn to share your toys or go sit in the corner by yourself.
Commandment 5: Thou Shalt Not Take More Than You Give
I’ve said it many times before. Networking is about giving more than you get. Your primary function as networking super star is to be a resource to others. There needs to be a balance of give and take. If you feel that the pendulum has swung your way on the take side, be sure to find a way to restore balance. You don’t want people to feel you have taken advantage of them.
Commandment 6: Thou Shalt Learn to Say No
You are only one person with so many hours in a day. You have to protect yourself from burnout. Agreeing to take on too many things will only lead to frustration and possibly failure. I would much rather say no, than to take on a project and drop the ball. Overloading yourself can severely damage your reputation. History doesn’t always remember the people that succeeded, but it tends to remember the ones who failed. Don’t take this as a license to slack off. That brings me to the next of the commandments.
Commandment 7: Thou Shalt Not Be Lazy
Networking is hard work and not for the faint of heart. You have to be out there all the time, constantly building, maintaining, and transforming your network. Simply shaking a few hands is not enough. True networking takes time and effort. You must build rapport and get involved (within your limits). If you aren’t willing to put in the time it takes, you should consider a different profession.
Commandment 8: Thou Shalt Remember Thy Roots
Of all the commandments, this one is probably the easiest to overlook. However, doing so will be a dangerous mistake. Don’t forget the people and events that shaped you into the person you have become. I would not be where I am in life, if not for countless friends and foes along the way. I have learned lessons from every “bad” thing that has happened to me during the course of my life and career. I don’t look back in regret, rather with gratitude. Each person or event pushed me in a new direction. Each course change, no matter how minor, steered me to my current path. Never forget where you started.
Commandment 9: Thou Shalt Not Cease to Dream
When we get busy, we tend to put our ambitions on hold. As long as life is going our way, we don’t see a need to dream of what is next. I don’t care how much I LOVE my job. I always try to visualize the next step in my life and career. The days of keeping the same job for 30 years and retiring with a pension are pretty much behind us. There is always a new adventure just over the horizon. Your network can be the key to your next voyage. When you have a dream, be sure to share it with the people you know. If you tell enough people, eventually someone will know someone who can help make it happen. As the famous DJ Casey Kasem says, “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”
Commandment 10: Thou Shalt Take Time for Thyself
In every job I have had in the past 8 years, my boss always feels the need to reminded me that I need to take time to recharge. Being “on” all the time, can wear you out. You need to be able to step back and take some time to relax, even if only for a few hours. I am an extremely social person. Despite that fact, I have noticed that the more I network, the less social I am with my friends. I simply don’t feel like doing anything once I get home. Don’t let your personal relationships suffer. Make time to maintain your friendships and romantic interests. Everyone needs downtime and someone to lean on occasionally. This is the hardest of the commandments for me to follow, for sure!
Commandment Cheat Sheet
Thou Shalt Not
Return Phone Calls
Take More Than You Give
Learn to Say No
Cease to Dream
Remember Thy Roots
Take Time for Thyself
There you have it; the 10 commandments of networking. I am sure if I really tried; I could find many more fundamental rules to follow, but 10 feels like a good number. Start off easy. Try to master 2 or 3 at first and then add in a few more as you go along. I think you’ll find that you job will become more enjoyable the more you can apply the commandments to your daily practice.