A long time ago, I got a t-shirt with a famous Sidney Harris cartoon on it in which two scholars are looking at a blackboard on which one of them has written a fairly complicated series of equations. In the middle of it are the words “then a miracle occurs”. His companion says “I think you should be more explicit here in step two”.
That’s kind of where most of us technical folks are with the second level in the “ART” of networking — Relationships.
The Awareness part is pretty easy. Just show up someplace and meet folks.
The final part, Trust, is pretty straightforward, too, assuming you’ve developed the relationship well.
How do we develop that relationship, though? It’s really not that difficult. All you have to do is treat that other person as if he or she were a friend.
I know, kind of shocking, right?
Now, it isn’t exactly like a friendship (though it can develop into one). Friendships often develop organically — almost without effort. Networking relationships grow with intention. You have chosen that other person as someone you want to have in your network. As such, there are a series of activities you can follow in order to improve the relationship and lead it toward the level of Trust.
- Follow-up after the initial contact. One meeting does not a relationship make.
- Take the initiative to set up the first (and possibly second and third) meeting. Maybe it’s just phone call, but there should be at least one prolonged personal contact such as a coffee or lunch.
- Remember important dates. At least their birthday, but anniversaries, kids’ birthdays, etc are all important.
- Look out for their benefit. This isn’t always business related. It could be a contact or recommendation of any kind which might help make their life easier.
- Always follow through on what you say. How else can you establish Trust?
- If appropriate, ask their advice on a problem you might have. Again, this doesn’t only have to be business oriented.
- If you attend an event which might be good for them, invite them as your guest — and pay for them as your guest.
- If you read something that may be of benefit to them, pass it along with a short blurb on why you think it might be helpful. Never forward without explanation.
- Learn about their interests, goals and achievements.
Following even a few of these ideas will help you fill in that step two “miracle” and bridge the gap that leads from mere Awareness to full Trust which should be the goal of any good networking practice.
So, what other behaviors could we add to the list above?