I often get asked about meeting people and building a network. There is a lot to talk about on this topic, but for this post I’d like to focus on what I think of as “levels of knowing”.
For things to happen for you, you have to have a relatively active network that proactively and unprompted comes up with your name as a network connection that could help them in some way. This is my threshold question: “Are you consistently contacted by others for help, advice or with opportunities?” If not, then you really don’t have that active a network…or your network sees you differently than you may want to be seen.
Examples of this include:
– I have a great position open and (you) would be a great fit. (Picking up the phone to call you and chat).
– I need some advice on XXX and (you) could probably help me. (Opening a new email to send you a note).
– I have a friend who needs advice on XXX and (you) could probably offer them some insight. (Sending a note to friend with your contact info and high praise for your usefulness, intellect and skill…)
I think you get the idea. There’s knowing someone and KNOWING someone.
Here’s my personal list of “levels” (they are cumulative):
1 – I know you
2 – I like you
3 – I respect you
4 – I can articulate what you could do for me
I know you – This simply means someone can place a face w/ a name and might know a detail. Little more. It is highly unlikely that any sort of passive activity will come from here.
I like you – You’re doing better. This might generate casual social contact that creates other interesting connections. This could lead you further up the ladder…or not. In and of itself this isn’t as powerful as respect. Why? How many people do you like to hang with that you wouldn’t ask for advice?
I respect you – Getting warmer. At this level you are known and valued by someone for your judgment and/or knowledge. This is a great place to be and opens up all kinds of possibilities. It requires someone to have had enough interaction with you to think highly of your experience and knowledge. But will they call you?
I can articulate what you can do for me – This is the pinnacle. To get here you need to be respected, but also have added “useful” and “accessible”. Many people are respected, but don’t consistently have people reach out to them. For that to happen you have to have enough of a service orientation to want to help people (even if there’s no obvious short term benefit to you). If you consistently are useful, your possibilities for building a supportive, proactive network increase exponentially. (BTW – Don’t ever make this “tit for tat” or “quid pro quo”. That’s not service, it’s using leverage. It won’t build you genuine support in the long run.)
– Don’t mistake the number of facebook or linkedin connections you have for how solid your network really is.
– If you consistently help others in a meaningful way, good things will tend to come back to you in the long term.