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Loose & Weak Networking - Say What!

Not too long ago a client told me about a book that had ‘changed his life’, specifically when it came to networking and business development. This particular client is an incredibly astute, well read attorney and so I immediately bought the book with hopes that it would change my life too. The good news, it has! 

I’ve read a lot of books when it comes to networking, communication, relationships, introverts/extroverts and so when I found myself immersed in this book it was refreshing to say the least.  

The book, Taking the Work Out of Networking: An Introvert's Guide to Making Connections That Count, by Karen Wickre, is a fast, easy and excellent book for anyone who is looking to up their networking game regardless of how you identify on the introvert/extrovert spectrum. 

My two big takeaways from the book are symbiotic concepts - ‘keeping in loose touch’ and “weak ties”.  I found these interesting for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was the word weak and the word loose are two terms you don’t generally associate with successful networking. 

Karen shares that if you practice ‘keeping in loose touch’, when there does come a time when you need specific help or have a specific ask, it won’t feel so transactional or icky.   

 “The key to overcoming your fears about networking is to practice a little bit every day — and to do it when you don’t need specific help. I call it “keeping in loose touch”: You pop up now and again to your connections and acquaintances (old and new), without any obligation to follow up or see each other in person. If you do this when you’re not feeling needy, you will begin to see yourself as a giver, not a taker. And if you can occasionally solve problems for others as a result of these check-ins, it will help you get over your fear of feeling needy. My guiding principle for easier networking is this: Nurture it before you need it.”

This is spot on advice! One of the biggest challenges I hear from clients and friends is the notion that they don’t want to come across as greedy, needy, or self absorbed. Practicing ‘keeping in loose touch’ is a great way to maintain relationships, act as a connector when others need help and to feel 100% confident to ask for help when you’re seeking support.

Your Challenge:  Every day, reach out to a person to “keep in loose touch”.  If every day feels like too much to start, try every other day or every 2 days and work up to daily.  Schedule 15 minutes on your calendar, like you would a meeting and treat it as such.

Tip:  Share things about yourself as you “keep in loose touch” so people get to know you.  You’ll find it opens the door to more meaningful connection.  Here’s a simple example: “Thought of you this weekend when I was at a Mediterranean cooking class.  You mentioned when we met you are a trained chef but your day job is in corporate.  Here’s one of my favorite dishes from the class.  Hopefully you’ll find some time to make it.” 

You may be thinking, OMG, reach out to someone everyday, that’s a lot.  But let’s do some math.   I am going to guess that you have at least 500 connections in LinkedIn (that seems to be bar).  There are only 365 days in a year.  You see where I’m going with this? With one out reach a day, you wouldn’t even get through all your connections in a year! You’re probably also thinking, Alyce, a lot of my 1st connections are “weak ties”.   Yep, and that is exactly who you should be ‘keeping in loose touch’ according to Karen’s research.  

In his book Friend of a Friend, business school professor David Burkus (TED talk: Why you should know how much your coworkers get paid) zeroes in on the idea that the people you already know — but the ones who are our more distant contacts, or our “weak ties” — are the ones best suited to help you. As he observes, ”When we have a career setback … we tend to only tell a close circle of friends who may or may not be able to help. … Instead, we ought to go to our weak and dormant ties, tell them our story, and see what opportunities they have. Even better, we ought to start a regular practice of re-engaging with our weak and dormant ties.” That’s what keeping in loose touch is about.”

The notion of weak ties is another incredible tool for anyone looking to become a more strategic connector. I’ve been on the receiving end of many ‘weak tie’ reach outs and each time I receive an email for an old colleague, friend or friend of friend I am pleasantly surprised to hear from each person. They keep their remarks brief, yet personable and make sure to include something that they have recently seen from my social media posts or know about me from our initial introduction, which creates instantaneous connection.

Networking isn’t just about going to networking events. It’s about nurturing your network and sometimes that nurturing is a simple, “Hello, I was thinking about you.”  I bet you’ll be surprised with the outcome of ‘keeping in loose touch’ with both your weak ties, they are stronger than you think.

At Articulated Intelligence we work with business professionals to help them grow their connections and realize a return on networking.

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