Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess

The Importance of Networking
March 3, 2009, 8:00 am
Filed under: Networking/Social Media, Public Relations, Recruiting

Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of being invited to speak to members of the Cincinnati PRSA at a happy hour held at BlackFinn. The subject of my presentation was the importance of networking in these tough economic times. I believe very strongly that spending time building up and cultivating your network is more important today than it ever has been before. Here’s why:

  1. In this economy, you can’t be too connected! And my belief is being connected starts at work. By being connected at work, you tap into resources within your own walls. in a recent article written by Matthew Hodgson on the ROI of being social at work, an MIT study showed that 40% of creative teams productivity is directly explained by the amount of communication they have with others to discover, gather, and internalise information. Breaking down these work silos will help you begin to build your network.
  2. Even if you’re happy where you’re at currently, things can always change. Let’s face it – no one is safe from the turmoil the current economic climate has caused. And the moment you think you’re safe, you’re toast. I recently did some research on mid-size to large PR agencies’ layoffs and found that a large majority have laid off anywhere between 2% and 10% of their worldwide workforce in the last 6 months. Many of you I’m sure have been affected by these, and even the best employees are not immune from these cutbacks. Something to consider here is that a lot of opportunities are never advertised – you can only find out about them through being connected with people. That’s why it is important to look beyond the job boards and be in constant communication with your network.
  3. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. There’s a famous story of a team of scholars that tried trying to prove Henry Ford was ignorant and requested a meeting with him to test his knowledge. Every question asked was highly technical, and each time, Ford didn’t answer the question; instead, he called the relevant expert in his company to come and answer the question for him. After a few questions one of the scholars told Ford that his inability to answer proved his ignorance. His response was simple; he believed it was not his role to know all these things, it was his role to surround himself with intelligent people that all complemented each other – thus, Ford understood the idea that a network is collectively more intelligent than any one individual person.
  4. You never know who you’re going to meet. I live my life with focus – I always have my antenna up because you really don’t know who is going to cross your path next. Please read this story about a trip I made to San Francisco two Octobers ago – a perfect example of this!
  5. There is something new to learn from each new encounter. No matter who you meet, there is always something you can learn. ALWAYS. Whether it’s how to do something, or how not to do it, there is a learning opportunity in each encounter.

A couple of things to remember while you’re building your network:

  1. Build up your relationships, not your number of connections. We had a challenge before the presentation to see who could do the most networking, but the twist was that the winners needed to tell something they learned about one of the people they received a business card from that was not on the card. While building up the numbers in your network is important, getting to know those in your network is more important.
  2. Combine online and offline networking. We have many opportunities today to meet people through social networks that we may not have otherwise known about. Taking these online relationships offline by attending MeetUps, Tweetups, networking events, and so-forth only helps to solidify those relationships. 
  3. Give without expecting in return. A good rule of thumb to remember: give three things before asking for one in return. By giving more to your network to begin with, your network will be eager to help when you have a need.
  4. Reach out, but don’t stalk. Especially when interviewing, do research on the people you’ll be interviewing with before you go to your interview, but it’s probably best to wait to make the connection until after the interview. Otherwise, it’s like sending a thank-you note before having the conversation. There are of course exceptions to this, but as a general rule, don’t be too creepy. Not everyone is as into online networking as we might be!
  5. Start networking before it becomes necessary. Fix your roof before it rains. Refer back to #2 of the reasons why – you just never know.
I have a great personal follow-up story for this presentation, to be shared in the next couple of weeks. I am most appreciative of the Cincinnati PRSA for inviting me to speak – about 30 people showed for this networking happy hour and I think everyone got a little something from it. Thanks for the opportunity and I hope to be able to do it again soon!

3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great article. I especially liked the Henry Ford example. Many new executives are under pressure to “know it all,” but when you get further up the career ladder, knowing who has the answer is good enough.

Comment by Lewis, AKA Seattle Interview Coach

Ditto, Lewis. I loved the Henry Ford example. And Amybeth, you have set a great example of how important networking is.

Comment by Andrea

Great post on the importance of networking. I couldn’t agree more!

Comment by Laurie

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