Networking is a Naughty Word

February 7, 2022

Networking is a naughty word in architecture, engineering, construction — most people cringe at the idea. Let’s approach networking from a different point of view that’s not cringeworthy then. Let’s think about it as making friends, learning about someone or someone’s company, or just finding common ground. In other words, networking IS NOT selling. It’s building relationships and getting to know someone, both professionally and personally. Some come by it naturally while others need training or guidance. Either way, everyone could brush up on their networking skills, especially since very little networking (at least in the traditional sense) took place the past couple of years.

Don’t get me wrong, networking does take effort. There are several different directions on networking. First, let’s talk about Networking Events. These are client or industry associations, Chamber of Commerce, or civic organizations that host an event specifically to meet other professionals. These events occur in a variety of locations. It’s walking into a room and scanning it to see who is there. Most of the time you’ll be greeted by someone at the registration table, so engage in conversation with them first to warm up a little. If you only know a few people at the event, ask them to introduce you to others. Don’t know a soul there? That’s okay too. Just scan the room to see if anyone else is solo or if there’s room to insert yourself into a conversation. You’d be surprised that many people will welcome the interruption and invite you into their conversation. Don’t forget to bring plenty of business cards with you!

Here are a few questions you can ask:

  1. What do you like about your job/company?
  2. What are you challenged with at work?
  3. What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
  4. Where are you from?
  5. What would a perfect day look like for you?

Asking open-ended questions like these will help get the conversation going. Most times after you have asked a question, the other person will ask you the same or similar question. Try to find something you both have in common, whether professionally or personally.

Networking can also be utilizing your existing connections to make a new connection. For example, if you are trying to connect with a CEO at a hospital you are pursuing (prospect), you might look on LinkedIn and see if you have any mutual connections. If you do, then you could ask your mutual connection for an introduction. If not, you could see how there may be a connection of a connection.

Think of your network as a bullseye with lots of rings around it. The very center of the bullseye is you. The next ring closest to the center would be the people you live with and maybe a best friend. You interact with them a lot and know them quite intimately and probably talk to them daily (if not multiple times a day). The next ring out would be those people you see on a consistent basis, such as your co-workers, family members, or friends. You might talk to these people a couple times a week, know what’s going on in their lives, and generally have a good relationship with them.

The next ring out would be people that you might sit with on a board, or perhaps a client. The next ring out are people you may have met once or twice. You might be connected on LinkedIn, but you don’t consistently see them.  You know them as acquaintances, but not very much beyond that. Both of these last two groups of people are actually GREAT referrals and connectors for you. As professionals, we need to do a better job of nurturing these relationships. These people already know you but maybe don’t realize what you do. Also, the people you don’t consistently interact with are talking to a totally different group of people than you do on a consistent basis. You can utilize THEIR network in order to connect with someone or obtain certain information. This is an area of untapped potential for building relationships.

In order to capitalize on these types of relationships, you do have to make extra effort in reaching out to them. That could mean sending them an email or forwarding them an article that made you think of them. People inherently want to connect with people, so use your connection’s connections to find that prospect. Plus, it’s easier to have a warm call/email than a cold call. Relationships are essential in our business. Those professionals that can and do network well will reap the benefits for themselves and their firms.

Building your network takes years, but once you have established a good network, you are pretty much unstoppable. You can reach anyone you want to with a few phone calls or emails. Even though there are six billion people on this plant, more than likely you are only a few degrees away from the person you want to connect with. It’s a pretty small world, so make the most of it and use all your connections to your advantage

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