By Peter Titlebaum, Ed. D.
Networking has become a buzz word. Everybody seems to be doing it; or, at least, everybody seems to be talking about it, anyway. So why all the excitement? What is networking, how can it help you attain your career goals and how can it be made more effective?
Networking is the art of communication with individuals to improve one’s career status. The contacts made through networking can help an individual succeed through the sharing of information and assisting in goal setting.
The first step in networking requires a person to get to know as many people as possible. Then one must learn from the experiences, take the information and use it to advance in a chosen career.
However, networking is only part of it. While this process could open doors, possibly even lead to employment, only one person is benefiting from the relationship. The professionals who are willing to help you advance your career, don’t gain much from the relationship. The act of networking must be taken a step further, and so the concept of ValueNetting is born.
ValueNetting is the observing of values of an individual you want to know, perhaps a professional in your desired field, then using these clues to enhance the relationship. While learning about the other person’s interests and values, you’re building an important and reciprocal relationship. Anyone can make a first impression, with ValueNetting you want to make that impression last.
To build your network you must learn about others. Play private detective. Listen and observe any information you can about the individuals you wish to ValueNet with.
Some examples of information to gather are: colleges they attended, hobbies and interests they pursue, books they read, and any other topics you discuss with them other than business.
Take that knowledge now and apply it. If you happen to see an article about their alma mater or their favorite sports team, cut it out and send it to your contact. This shows that you have a genuine interest in them and that they are important enough to remember. So ValueNetting is as simple as observing the values of others, using all of these clues and taking the time to send items. All this shows that you are interested in them.
This is knowledge that most people don’t understand – how effective ValueNetting can build a mutually beneficial relationship. Sharing this type of information gives them a “value” that is different from the rest.
Realize a few things:
1. You must be willing to check your ego at the door. Follow-up is so important. You have to follow up time and time again, even if you get no response.
2. You must set small goals. To begin, you should send a minimum of one letter per week to develop a network. Include things such as articles that would be of interest. Correspondence doesn’t have to be a lengthy letter, don’t panic (that’s what post-it-notes were invented for).
3. Try to make at least 10 phone calls per week to start building your network. Don’t expect to be called back. In fact, don’t expect anything in return.
4. This is where your ego comes into play. Understand that people are usually busy. However, they definitely value persistence.
5. Keep records of your contacts. List their name, address, phone, and the things that you have observed.
Enhancing Employment Opportunities
ValueNetting acquaints you with people you never dreamed of knowing. ValueNetting enables us to receive information. When I talk to people about ValueNetting, I give them the example of approaching someone on the street asking them to loan you $30,000.
You would never do this. This is the same as calling someone and asking them for the gift of a job without demonstrating your value. If you are using the ValueNet technique to acquire a job, it is your responsibility to learn what the company’s needs are. Again, asking the right questions and observing the answers give you invaluable clues. Questions like:
– Where do they see themselves in five years?
– What are their immediate and long term goals?’
It is important to ask these questions. The elicited responses can identify what the company’s perceived problem areas are. When you understand this, you can turn the problems into challenges, and challenges are opportunities just waiting to be tackled. You cannot ValueNet just for yourself. You must bring something unique and interesting to the table.
Achieving your goal is a long-term commitment. Showing an interest in someone’s professional and personal life will give you an opportunity to share information with them.
Information is only powerful when you give it away. Think of some people you could help with their careers just by contacting them and sharing information. You have to learn to give your value away and expect nothing in return. You have to make the connections instead of waiting for them to come to you. Wouldn’t you like somebody to treat you in this way?
Value Netting is not a quick fix solution. It takes time but the results will surprise you.