Networking – Your Personal Mafia Family
In my recent post The Right Time to Network I emphasized the importance of networking well in advance of you actually needing something from your network. I was mentioning the post to my photographer during a photo shoot (new images will be put up within a few days), and he described it in a way that I hadn’t really thought about before.
Your network is basically a big family, like the mafia families of the stories, in which some things are expected of you from time to time, and in exchange, the family will stand by you when you need their help. That is, a well-cultivated network can be an extension of your family, with people you’ve helped over the years who are glad to help you when you need it, much as you helped them when they needed it.
Cultivating your network means slowly growing your network by always looking to bring people closer to the center of your circles, and increasing the number of people in the outer circles. In the book Make Your Contacts Count which I reviewed following a networking event last year (Getting Started with Networking), the author describes 5 levels of your network, from an acquaintance you barely know to an ally who will stand by your side. Your network will grow by moving people through those circles as effectively as possible.
Growing your network, which I describe in the afore mentioned article, involves more than merely increasing size, but doing so in a manageable way. That is, you can meet many people and make them acquaintances in a relatively short period of time, but also slowly cultivating relationships with a few people from each group, such that the groups grow slowly but surely.
Additionally, maintaining your network will involve work, to constantly connect with the people you already know, to not disappear for long periods of time. In this, websites such as LinkedIn and Facebook provide an excellent service, facilitating regular contact. That is, of course, provided you still maintain the in person contact that you would have used prior to the development and growth of these sites.