There are lot of smart people who are interested in networking but most of them admit that they don’t have the time to invest in it. You may be one of them or you may know someone who fits the description. So, let’s get right to it.
Let's talk about time, as it relates to networking. Think about some of the best networkers you know. All of them have the same 24 hours as you do. So it's really not the time—you can't have more time than anybody is else out there. 24 hours is what we get.
If you can't manage time, then what can you do?
The only other possibility is managing yourself. Not having time to contribute is rarely the problem if you have enough capacity to contribute meaningfully in the time available for you. Rather than focusing on the lack of time problem, start focusing on the lack of capacity problem. You have more control there.
As you make investments in yourself, your capacity to contribute meaningfully goes up. The higher your capacity, your ability to spend time on networking goes up.
The networking is misunderstood because a vast majority of people think that attending events and collecting cards is all it takes. That would be card collecting, not networking (Please read: What is not your networking score?) Networking, if anything should be a means to an end—a stepping stone towards building lasting relationships.
Here are three things to think about:
1. Shift your mindset about networking
The big shift that has to happen is in your mindset toward networking. If you want long-term success, you need to focus on is building long-term relationships.
When you network, extend the time horizons of how long you want this relationship to last. Do a thought experiment and ask a question to yourself—“If this were going to be a lifetime relationship, what would be my posture towards this be?”
2. Consciously build your capacity to contribute
From a networking perspective, you are only as good as the additional capacity you can bring to play.
If you don't have adequate capacity to contribute meaningfully, it will take you longer to make meaningful contributions. The logic is really simple. Imagine asking everyone to bring what they have to the table. The people that can bring a lot to the table are the people who have a lot to bring.
3. Build obligations
There is a big difference between knowing you have to do something and actually doing it. It doesn’t matter how much you have to contribute, nothing happens until you actually use it to meaningfully help others take care of their problems, create new opportunities, or accelerate their journey.
Every time you contribute meaningfully, the result will be a new obligation on their end. Over a period, you have a bank of obligations. You do this over a long period of time and all you need is to call on a subset of those obligations to “add additional capacity” for your own projects.
Image credit: DH. HASSAN