The invisible economy of networking

One economy we should all invest in is without a doubt the favor economy. But what is it after all? And why is it so often neglected?

Think about networking and the potential it has as the biggest invisible economy in the world. It creates jobs, businesses and marriages. It’s often said that it’s not about what you know – but about who you know. It’s difficult to argue with and even though we may call it cronyism or nepotism, it’s still going to persist in some shape or form. Instead of complaining that someone else was hired thanks to their network, let’s get strategic. The sooner the better.

The power of invisible economy of networking

Networking is absolutely invaluable in today’s business world and can work miracles. Without people and connections there is no business and no relationships.

There is one more layer to conventional networking that makes it truly effective. Having a large social media network is not an indicator of success. We all connect on LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram. However, how many of those connections can you really use?

We all prefer to work with people we know, like and respect – that’s the fact. For starters, it minimises the risk of employing someone based only on their CV. Do they really know what they say they do? A series of interviews can verify that only to a certain extent. Even if they are good at what they do, it’s still possible that our personalities clash and we don’t want to spend several hours a day with them.

To deal with similar challenges our minds evolved to scan towards easier solutions and we (consciously or not) tend to hire people we know or those recommended by someone from within our network.

How to create a valuable network?

There are so many things you can do if you want to extend your network and it’s always a balance between giving and taking. As with everything in life it’s good to start with yourself and think about what you can do for others before expecting them to think about you.

It will come anyway in most cases – the reciprocity rule is so strongly ingrained in virtually everyone that we willingly want to help those who did something for us.

  • Use your LinkedIn profile to write recommendations for those you worked with
  • Send a thank you email or a card – we all like feeling appreciated for our efforts
  • Remember about important events in the lives of your friends and work colleagues. Is it their birthday? Did they just get married / engaged / have a child? Did they get promoted or change a job?
  • Be proactive: is there someone whom you could help by introducing them to someone from your network (business and personal)?
  • Connect with headhunters

The key is to add a human element to that equation to really make it work. I work as a relationship manager and never forget about the importance of seeing the people behind the business.

If you don’t have a good memory or have too many contacts you can always write things down (such as the names of their kids, holiday plans, what they are passionate about etc). After a meeting I’d take notes about whatever we talked about to refresh my memory before my next meeting. This really makes people feel important and respected as you show that you were listening to what they were saying. Wouldn’t you want others to treat you with such a respect as well?

Helping others succeed is a powerful way of not only helping them, but also yourself

Networking is an investment – after all, you will spend some of your time and we all could use more of it. Yet it’s one of the best investments you can make. That’s why it’s important to be genuine and help without thinking about getting something back immediately – to deepen those relationships authentically.

The beauty of this approach is that you will ultimately benefit from helping – but you never know who and when will ‘pay you back’.

Start early

Some people are natural networkers and don’t have to think much about it. Others realize how powerful a network can be once they are looking for a job.

The solution? Start early. Being a student offers countless opportunities: people you study and party with will one day run businesses, be in politics, work in hospitals or have a travel agency. Being able to reach out and call them if you need something will be easy if you’ve kept in touch. Simply having them on your social media may not be enough if you’ve neglected the relationships – and may make you look opportunistic.

Common mistakes

Many of us focus on our chosen sector – say, if you work in finance you only think about your network in terms of those who work there as well.

We also tend to do more for those who are more senior that we are – such as our managers – and forget about those who work with or for us.

Even though it may seem strategic it may be a very limiting and tiring approach. While there is nothing wrong with attending business events to connect with some powerful business people, it’s only a fraction of what you could do.

To make your life easier I’d argue that the best way is to

extend your network based on whom you truly like, not what their occupation is

and you will create the strongest and the most authentic network.

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