It’s the Network

There’s no denying that we’ve fallen into precarious economic times. The United States shed 2.6 million jobs in 2008. More of the same continued in January 2009, a month during which corporations announced 65,000 layoffs in a single day.

No matter how penniless you feel right now, there’s one investment you can’t afford to overlook. At a time when no one’s buying, there’s something you must build. In a world where budgets are tight, you can’t skimp on this line item. What is it, you ask?

As the Verizon slogan says, “It’s the network.”

In his book, Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi wrote about the safety net provided by a robust network of social connections.

“Experience will not save you in hard times, nor will hard work or talent. If you need a job, money, advice, help, hope, or a means to make a sale, there’s only one surefire, fail-safe place to find them – within your extended circle of friends and associates.”

We would do well to worry less about empty pocketbooks and more about empty rolodexes. When threatened by scarcity, it’s natural to zero in on money management, but we should be equally concentrated on managing connections within our network.

Unfortunately, the word “networking” often conjures up negative stereotypes. We’ve been fed misconceptions about networking, and these false impressions make it hard for us to see the true value of our relationships. Let’s debunk the popular myths of networking one by one.

COMMON NETWORKING MYTHS

Myth #1: Networking is for self-promoting schmoozers.

Networking isn’t solely the realm of desperate job seekers or overeager socializers. Nor do you have to hand out business cards like candy in order to network. Networking simply involves making mutual connections, and everyone benefits by forming them. By tapping into our connections, we can share ideas, pass along opportunities, and benefit from one another’s expertise.

Myth #2: Network is only for salespeople or outgoing personalities.

You may not be a salesperson and you may not be outgoing, but you can’t deny that business, at its core, is founded upon relationships. Regardless of your position or personality, you’d be wise to intentionalize your social interactions. If you neglect your network, you’ll be isolated when your life hits a rough patch. Conversely, if you cultivate your network, you’ll be buoyed by support whenever hard times come your way.

Myth #3: Networking, by nature, is uncomfortable, forced, and contrived.

We tend to imagine networking as speed dating awkwardly applied to the professional level. Nothing could be more inaccurate. The best networkers authentically share themselves (their talents, knowledge, resources) to benefit others. This can happen casually and genuinely, both at work and in informal atmospheres.

THE FINAL WORD
The economic slump reminds us of the transient nature of our jobs and our wealth, and makes us appreciate the relationships we have. In hard times, we can’t afford to retreat into a shell; we have to reach out more than ever to lift each other up. Although the concept of networking has been tainted by misconceptions, wise leaders know to prioritize relationships, recognizing them as the surest sources of prosperity and stability.

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