Networking 101: Be the Connector (Part 2)

*This post is a continuation of Networking 101: Be the Connector (Part 1)*

If you follow our newsletter and took last week’s challenge, you’ve done the “easy” bit; you’ve introduced two people you know well because they had simpatico interests, challenges, or abilities.

But consider the following scenario: your friend or colleague needs help with a situation and you don’t know anyone to link her up with. Or, perhaps you just think you don’t know anyone. But the likelihood that you know someone, or they know someone, is actually pretty high.

Probe Your Network for Second or Third Degree Connections

Imagine that a friend has mentioned she needs a great divorce lawyer. You might not have any divorce lawyers in your network. But you probably know other folks who might have leads. You might know 1) someone who has been divorced; 2) other kinds of attorneys; 3) an assistant at an asset management firm; 4) someone who networks a lot; 5) a bartender downtown. All of these people have the kind of network that might produce a divorce attorney.

When you’re looking for help from your network, write a personal email to 4 or 5 people who are most likely to have a contact you need. Tell them your situation and what you’re looking for. And let them know that you don’t need anything more from them than an introduction. You can take it from there.

Make A Point of Knowing Other People’s Business

I don’t mean that in a busybody way. But knowing what is happening in people’s lives, what they do in their free time, and what projects they love at work can dovetail into knowing whom to connect and when.

It’s a terrible feeling when you try to connect two people without realizing that one of them is going through a hard time and the last thing they want to do is give your buddy tips for building a new deck. It’s impossible to stay on top of everyone’s business–and often, people don’t share what’s going on in their personal lives. So it’s always up to you to ask permission before introducing people.

In a similar vein, it’s also a good idea to ask, “Is this a good time for you?” when making a phone call or even over email. Asking, “Hey, I know it’s been a while, and I have a casual request for you, but I wanted to ask first if now is a good time for you to chat.” This lets people off the hook if they don’t have the emotional bandwidth to help you with your request.

Don’t Overuse Your Connections

I have a friend who knows everything about the local restaurant scene. Whether you need to seat 20 people, entertain in-laws who don’t like spicy food, or need the best patio seating around, this girl knows what’s up.

The problem is, everyone knows she knows what’s up. And it can be draining for her to always field these questions.

Now, I only hit her up for restaurant knowledge when I don’t have anyone else I can ask. If I have a very specific request or need help getting reservations, she’s someone I will turn to. Otherwise, I will ask one of the many other foodies in my network who probably isn’t overwhelmed with requests for help.

Being a connector can be time-consuming, and not everyone is immediately cut out for it. But anyone can develop this skill. And moreover, it doesn’t always yield immediate results for you. But that’s ok. You’re playing the long game here. You want to build a network that is extensive, self-reliant, and successful. That takes time. But it will be worth it in the end.