by Heather White

If only I had more time...

If only I had a pound every time I heard that one. But it is a genuine problem, and one felt by every person I have ever met. Well... that’s not quite true. You see, ‘professional networkers’ don’t think lack of time is a problem. Their mindset is that networking (building relationships, being of service and so on) is a way of ‘being’, not a burden.

If you pace the level of connections you make in a week/day and are consistent in your activity, then you always have time over a week to drop someone an email or make a quick call or text them.

How often do you clean your teeth each day? Once, twice three times? And how long does that take overall – six minutes if you have one of those electric things with a timer on it. Well then: go buy yourself a timer and each day do six minutes of ‘networking’.

Day-to-day networking

How? Let’s take one of the everyday things you do without even thinking and see how this can become an easy and effective networking tool. What are you reading at the moment? Whatever it is – newspaper, book, email or whatever – think who else might find this useful.

Yes, of course your actions have to be in the context of what you are reading, whether it is available to be shared and so on. Be sensible. But if it can be shared – then share it. For example, you are reading the Financial Times; there is a great article about the technology industry, and you have two contacts inside BT who might find this useful. You have their mobile numbers, so you send them a text saying ‘Have you seen xyz article in the FT today, page 9 – right up your street.’

How long did that take? Two minutes – so we have four minutes left...

You get into the office; you have a meeting scheduled, and you need to deepen relationships with a colleague in IT. Send a quick email to say ‘Fancy a coffee five mins before kick off?’

There you go – seven minutes and you have made three better connections in one day. Now repeat daily. Just like cleaning your teeth!

It’s all in the mind

The true cause of lack of time is having the wrong mindset and lack of discipline – structure, if you like.

Mindset comes down to how you see networking: what importance do you place on it, how willing are you to have a go, and will you let your ‘fears’ stop you from doing it?

Professional networkers have no more or less time than you. They simply know that not to network is a mistake and a time-costly one at that. If they are not connected to the right people, they know it will take twice as long to find out stuff, or they may never hear about opportunities and so on. They stay alert to tiny windows of opportunity to network – like reading something and passing it on.

Here are just two quick examples. One chap disciplines himself to talk to five people from his contact base every day. His preference is to talk to them and not email or text. One woman invites at least three people to every event she attends. See? Done! Over time, professional networkers work out what is the easiest and best way for them to stay in touch – a way that is not a burden, but both a real pleasure and effective. (See The follow-up.)

On a final note, so what if you don’t say hi to someone today, or maybe even tomorrow? But it does start to hurt when you leave it a week or a month. Close friends often understand you are busy; colleagues will as well, to some degree, but influencers, clients? No, they won’t understand, because someone else is out there, just waiting for a chance to slip in.

So – what importance do you place on networking?