So far we’ve covered a lot of ground on networking – why it’s more important than ever right now, why you need to choose one of the 3 networking camps, and which networking activities are best for each camp.
Today we’re going to look at how your network can grow with two different strategies – networking up and networking out.
I’ll walk you how each of them works, and give you my recommendations for what you should do moving forward.
Networking Up: The Basics
When you’re networking up, your networking activities are focused on getting into contact with specific types of people in specific positions, for a pre-planned purpose.
This is when you want to work your way into a circle of peers (like a set of well-known podcasters you hope to work with), or build connections with a particular high-profile person that you might want to interview or have promote a program of yours.
This is “networking up” – working your way up the ladder of connections to your desired person or people, so you can ultimately incorporate them into your network.
In general, networking up is an effective way to streamline the process of getting the sustained attention of someone who is currently out of reach.
Why “Networking Up” Works
If your desired connection is high-profile enough, or successful enough, they usually won’t pay attention to random, unknown people getting in touch with them. They’re too busy. Plus, everyone wants a piece of them, so they often filter their communications through assistants.
However, they do have a trusted group of contacts who they do communicate with regularly.
These are friends, peers, co-workers and often a few people who aren’t on the same professional level as they are, but are still connections all the same.
Networking up involves creating relationships with those trusted connections. If you can connect with those people, they can eventually help make introductions to the person you ultimately want to talk to.
So in this model, you’re essentially building a ladder of connections.
You want to connect with the hard-to-reach podcaster, so you build connections to a few of their close connections. And you do that by looking at those close connections and figuring out who their close connections are.
And so on, and so on. You trace connections down, build your ladder, and work your way up.
That’s networking up.
Now, let’s look at the other approach.
Networking Out: The Basics
Networking out is pretty much the opposite approach – you just meet people and build relationships. And then you keep doing it, until further notice.
This is how networking tends to happen in real life – as you’re growing up, when you go to school, when you move to a new neighborhood, city or country. You just meet people and see what happens from there.
Depending on what your networking goals are, and what you’re trying to achieve, this will probably involve some basic level of targeting.
If you’re a burgeoning author, you might decide to “get to know people in the writing community”, but that’s about the depth of your intent. You’re not meeting random strangers, but you’re not setting your sights on anyone in particular.
This is a lot like attending a mixer or meetup where you’re around people with mutual interests. You just hang out and see who you meet.
However, it can also be completely untargeted, and that’s okay, too. You can simply connect with people at random, see who you click with, and discover how they will ultimately fit into your network.
Why “Networking Out” Works
When you’re networking out, you don’t have any agenda other than simply getting to know people. You find out about their lives, their interests, and who they know, and that leads to new connections over time.
These types of relationships often have more depth to them, because when you’re running without an agenda, you have more natural conversation and you can create deep, lasting connections that don’t happen as often when you’re networking up.
Not all connections are deep, though. You can simply meet someone, not develop a deep connection with them, but the two of you still remember each other.
So later, someone asks you if you know where to get a good virtual assistant and they say, “I have no idea, but I do know this person who just got one they like.” Then you get in touch with that casual connection and make an introduction.
This is what most of real life looks like. We meet lots of people and store up a mental database of who-knows-who, or who-knows-what, and we can create referrals that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.
Which networking approach should you use?
Honestly, you’re probably going to use both of them to some degree, depending on which of the 3 networking camps you choose to be in.
On a case-by-case basis, you pick which one works for the thing you’re doing right now. If you’re having toast for breakfast today, you use a toaster. But if you’re making a smoothie, you get the blender out.
But in general, I recommend investing at least 75% to 85% of your time on the “networking out” approach.
There’s an old Yiddish expression, “Man plans, and God laughs.”
That’s how life tends to work.
We make all these plans, set all these intentions, and only a fraction of them work out the way we expect them to.
Most of the time the landscape changes, or we have unexpected success or failures, or we discover that our plans don’t match up with the world that we encounter.
The same is true with networking.
In real life, the magic happens in unexpected places.
We meet a random person who has an amazingly useful connection that we never could have expected.
We talk to someone and they casually mention a connection that we weren’t even actively looking for, but would be incredibly useful.
We get to know a person on a purely social basis, and it turns out they have a cousin who has been desperately searching for someone who sells what we sell, and they become a major client.
That’s how networking really works. You meet people, all the atoms and molecules bounce around, and at some unexpected point something major happens.
Networking up is useful for setting yourself in a general direction. And it’s going to get you results over time. So you should consider doing that.
But your big breaks, those major moments when the landscape shifts and you get an exponential return? That happens with networking out – so you should give that more of your resources.
So my advice to you is to put the bulk of your time and energy into networking out, and a smaller percentage into networking up.
That way you get the best of both worlds.
(And I’d put money on it being the path that’s ultimately going to be the fastest.
So that’s networking up vs. networking out. A little of the former, but mostly the latter.
Split your time roughly 25-75, and you’ll have your fastest path forward.
You can start by connecting with me on Twitter, too. You never know who I know. :)
Talk to you soon,