Stop Networking, Start Building Your Network

April 16, 2021

By Lauren Richards Rosenfarb, Delmar Mortgage

You held meetings on Zoom. You happy-houred on Zoom. You talked to your grandma on Zoom.  Now, as we re-enter the world without video conferencing software, we can be smarter. The same global crisis that slung inconvenience—even tragedy—our way has given us a once-in-a-pandemic opportunity: a chance to rethink our assumptions and create lasting change.

First on the chopping block of the status quo: networking. Stop networking and start building your network. What’s the difference? Building your network requires planning ahead. It’s intentional and goal-driven. It’s not social climbing. It’s about keeping your relationships healthy and creating value for those in your life.

So as you plan your post-pandemic network, consider these three Cs: conceive, create and care.

Conceive
Start by imagining the network you want. Think quality over quantity since too large of a network will spread you thin. Networking research shows that those who rank the highest in well-being and performance typically have 12 to 18 contacts in their network. The ideal network regularly contributes the following:1. Access to information including expertise, market awareness, and best practices.
2. Power in the form of resources, support, and clarifying difficult questions.
3. Developmental feedback that holds you accountable and challenges you to improve.
4. Personal support that uplifts your self-esteem.
5. Sense of purpose by validating your work.
6. Promotion of work/life balance by showing you the bigger picture.

Ask yourself: How connected are my relationships to other networks and who is in my inner circle? Research indicates that both men and women benefit when they are at the center of a well-connected network. But to keep on par with men, women need even more insider knowledge, the kind that can only come from close female ties.

Next, keep your network diverse to maintain a fresh perspective. Seek contacts outside of the mortgage industry and your region. A good network reaches across hierarchical bounds and areas of expertise.

We know diversity is key, but with one exception: Everyone in your network, yourself included, should be energizers. Energizers are not necessarily extroverts, but they energize us with positivity and an ability to spot and share opportunities.

Create
Whether or not you had a strong support structure during the pandemic year, one thing is likely. If you’re in mortgage sales, you weren’t hitting the pavement for referrals. But the good fortune of a booming industry can’t last forever, so start building your network now before you need it.

Consider your current network’s size, gender balance, characteristics, and diversity, and then make some hard decisions. Minimize time with people who sap your energy, and let go of these relationships if necessary. You’re allowed to feel guilty about this, but remember that we already make decisions every day that unconsciously affect our network. Do you go out with a friend, or just go home? Do you only talk with your colleagues at a mixer, or introduce yourself to new people? Consciously make space for mutually rewarding relationships.

To start, sign off LinkedIn and get out to socialize. Volunteer at a non-profit or join a sports team—and continue attending mixers and conferences. We are wired to interact in pairs, so find conversation partners by scanning the room for clusters of people with an odd number. Remember, people want to branch out and meet you too. Furthermore, don’t be shy about asking a friend for an introduction. (You can always provide an easy escape clause: “If sending an introductory email makes you uncomfortable for any reason, it’s OK.”)

Most importantly, create “pull” by being a giver and an energizer. Give before you receive. Reach out to others before you have to. Although you expect the relationship to evolve reciprocally, you’re in this for the long haul. Givers lead by example and set the standard for any new relationship.

Being an energizer is four times more likely to contribute to your success than being at the very center of your network. Your presence and engagement in every conversation will energize others. Other ways to create positive relationships: stick to your word and follow through. Make your criticism constructive, and focus on people’s ideas instead of the people themselves. Be sure to ask for advice on your projects and ideas too.

Care
Relationships naturally fade away if we let them, so invest in the people in your life. Create a pathway where kindness and reciprocity can flow and a space where authenticity and presence can exist.

As we enter life after lockdown, let’s learn from high performers. Reconnect face-to-face and leave the perfunctory business card swaps for the pre-COVID era where they belong.

MEET

To learn more about Delmar Mortgage, visit delmarmortgage.com.

Information in this article is based on research from the following publication and institutions:
Harvard Business Review
Kellogg School of Management
Yale School of Management

About the author

Joe Clote

Joseph W. Clote is owner of Publishing Concepts, LLC a communications and marketing firm based in Saint Louis, Missouri. Mr. Clote is Group Publisher of MeetMed™ and Missouri Meetings & Events™ (MM&E) magazine, a quarterly publication read by thousands of meeting and event professionals, and producer of the St. Louis and Kansas City trade shows under the MM&E name. Mr. Clote has extensive sales and marketing expertise in the travel, tourism, fine art, insurance, and software development industries.