The Right Time to Network

Over the past few years, I’ve participated in a variety of networking groups, both online and in real life. I’ve also read several books on networking, and have been coached by a professional networking facilitator on etiquette. Out of interest, I started asking people around me about their networking experiences, what pushed them to start, and what approaches they’ve made to expand their network.

What I discovered was that many people start networking when they lose a job, or start a new business.

From my experiences, that’s much too late.

The best time to start networking is when you don’t need anything from the people you connect with, and ideally, when you have something to offer. Networking is not about telling everyone how great you are, or how desperately you’re looking for work. It’s not about telling the world about your latest product and how much better it is than the alternatives.

It’s about making connections that are mutually beneficial. While you can certainly do this when you need something, it’s so much easier to focus on giving when you don’t need anything. When you attend a networking event, you should be looking for people that you have something in common with, or people that you can help out. You should try to be the connector in the room, linking up people who might otherwise not find each other to their mutual benefit.

What you will discover is that by helping other people, you establish a strong network of people who have come to respect you for focusing on their best interests. True networking is reciprocal, but not necessarily within a single connection. If you set out to an event with the plan to help make 10 connections between other people, maybe only one connection will be of value to your own needs. However, in the long run, that one connection can often prove to be of equal value to the other 10 connections you made that have no direct benefit to yourself.