The Network Works
When technologists think about networks, we are usually referring to computer hardware and software connected together. But the networks we build amongst ourselves and our friends and colleagues can b
He was looking to leave. A network engineer friend of mine called to tell me he was considering leaving his employer. “Howard,” he said, “I have a problem I need your help with.” They had missed a few payrolls in a row, and he couldn’t afford that kind of delay in his income. He then asked if I could help him put together his resume.
I said no.
This rendered him almost speechless, because he never dreamed I’d reply that way. I quickly explained to him that I felt a resume was a waste of time for him. He had a long and excellent track record in the industry, I reminded him, and sending resumes to headhunters, job boards, and recruiters would not only be a waste of his time and effort, they would also likely lead him to inferior opportunities.
“Then what should I do?” he asked.
In response, I asked him how many people he knew. He sputtered about not really knowing. I suggested that with decades in our industry, he knew hundreds of people. Maybe thousands. “So what?” he said.
I told him that I wanted him to start calling those people. Start with the ones you’re friendliest with and work your way on down the list. Don’t ask any of them for jobs. Just call to say hello. Tell them about your problem, and that your solution is to find other employment.
He talked about it being embarrassing.
“Nonsense,” I replied, “Just about every single one of them has been in the same or similar situation sometime in their careers. Anyone who would dare to ridicule him about it is someone who deserved to be hung up on and scratched off your contacts list.”
“Remember,” I continued, “everybody you know probably knows as many people as you do. So the more people you reach to talk about your problem, the more people you have thinking about who they know that would benefit from having someone with your skills on their team.”
“Why would they want to help me?” he asked.
I then explained to him that the phrase “It’s more blessed to give than to receive” also reflects the fact that people enjoy giving more than receiving. They get to feel really good about themselves when they help a friend.
“You’re giving them a great opportunity to feel good for helping you,” I concluded.
Although he was starting to feel comfortable with this idea, he still really felt the need to have a resume. Given that many companies require that they have a resume on file for all employees, this made sense. But this gave me the opportunity to ask him the critical question:
“Which way would you prefer for a prospective employer to learn about you, from someone they know and trust, or from a piece of paper.”
We made an agreement that he would start calling everyone he knew, and I would prepare the required resume for him.
Two weeks later he called again. “Howard,” he said, “I have a problem and I need your help.”
Confused, I asked, “Didn’t we have this conversation two weeks ago?”
“Oh, no,” he replied immediately, “different problem.”
Still confused I asked what I could help him with now.
“Well,” he replied somewhat sheepishly, “I did what you told me and called a lot of people that I know.”
“Great,” I replied, “how did that go?”
“Well,” still sheepishly, “my new problem is that I now have three offers to consider and I can’t figure out how to choose between them.”
The Power of Networking
I had simply asked my friend to do some basic networking, calling friends to talk informally about what was going on in his life. In two short weeks he was overwhelmed by the opportunities available to him.
This is a simple but powerful example of the power of personal networking.
At the bottom of every email I send is my favorite observation: “The more good you do for more people the more good finds its way back around to you.”
“The more good you do for more people, the more good finds its way back around to you!”
And that goes back to the earlier observation that people like giving far more than they do receiving. When you’ve done good for someone, it’s not that they feel indebted. It’s that they feel you are someone who is worthy of their help. Someone worth helping. They’re more than glad to help you.
For business technologists, finding new employment is far from being the only application of this powerful personal networking:
· The power of “P2P”, partner-to-partner partnering is driven by networking. As we specialize more and more, we find ourselves needing partners to provide services we don’t provide ourselves. By networking with industry colleagues we learn who is worth partnering with, and trustworthy. Since requests for proposal have a very brief shelf-life, the faster we can identify a good partner the better. The relationships we build at industry shows, and on social media groups, really pay off in these situations.
· The partnering we do with other partners also pays off when they have need for your services to satisfy one of their customers. Your partners become an excellent conduit for additional business and revenue. Best of all you have no cost of sales for these projects beyond the effort you put in to maintaining these valuable relationships.
· We used to have better access to vendor technical resources because we drove higher volumes of sales of their products. Since many of us don’t sell any products anymore, we need to build new paths to those resources. Making those engineers your friends over the years really pays off here.
· Often, you may find yourself needing someone to bounce a decision off of. You’re not sure which way to go, and the people best suited to help you are likely to be others in your space.
· As your business grows you may consider acquiring other companies or having someone acquire yours. The fastest way to spread the word under your control is through your personal network of friends.
One of the CEOs I’ve worked for in the past had the habit of printing his entire Contacts list every week. He would then go through it, calling people listed in it and then crossing them off as he moved forward to the next. He did this every week, and every week he called different people. Yes, there were definitely digital ways to do this, but this was comfortable for him. He shared with me that he had been doing this for decades and it had helped him build his business more than anything else he did.
Grow Your Network Faster
Be a joiner. There are many excellent associations and groups serving the IT industry on both the buy and sell sides. You can easily meet them at IT conferences, but you can also find them online. Feel free to contact me if you’d like insight into some of them to help you choose. When you join a group that has thousands of members, hundreds of them quickly become part of your network, followed by more and more. Each and everyone of them has something valuable to teach you or share with you, as do you have for them.
Cherish your network. Cultivate your network. Your network will keep you whole when things are tough. My network has made my career far more enriching, and I feel truly blessed to be connected to all of them. Get out there and network! The Network Works!
Howard, another good one! My channel network has been a continuing source of support to me in building my business and in providing moral support! Thanks for being part of my network, btw!