Part I: Networking on a '4x5' basis is fulfilling
Several years ago, I found myself in the “in transition” professional life phase, which is code for “out of work” for those who have ever been through the outplacement process. Not an easy time, especially given the lingering employment pall and the paucity of prospects from the Great Recession. I learned a valuable behavioral skill during that sojourn – a commitment to intense, targeted networking.
So integral and passionate is networking to me now personally that I have extended my own custom approach, which I call the '4 x 5 approach', to my consulting practice and client business development.
First, let’s break some perceptions. You hear the word 'networking' a lot. It conjures up images of tommy-gun cold calling and awkward urban gathering sessions at a gastro pub. You know, put your entire career points of differentiation on a sheet of paper and hope that a group of others with a similar objective will bother to empathize and help you once Last Call is over (A bit cheeky, I know, for in fact any opportunity to connect like this can be productive).
But networking can - and should be - a cathartic process where opportunity discovery and enhanced personal connectivity become personal passions. If one approaches networking with a rigorous and targeted methodology, the path to the original pursuit - albeit a new job, client, or personal milestone – can be as rewarding as the actual achievement.
Let’s break for a minute and put in a reality check. Networking can be intimidating for many, myself included. As an unabashed and lifelong introvert, it was easier for me to endure oral surgery than to reach out to that first networking prospect. But if you invest in a diversity of methods and communication processes, you will find that inhibitions to reach out and establish meaningful connections will evaporate with practice and frequency.
Here’s what I mean by diversity… Much like playing the popular game Jenga, you can only ultimately win by approaching the challenge via various angles and targeted methods of extraction. Sometimes you will need to be on the north side of the puzzle, carefully pulling blocks from the middle of the tower… other times you will need to be on the tower’s south side, meticulously pushing at the blocks at the base for careful extraction. Approach, effort, and technique are situationally adapted to the end goal of surviving a tower collapse on your head!
So it is with networking. You will need pursue networking candidates from a variety of angles in your professional and social life: the workplace (of course); local community acquaintances; college, even high school alumni; fellow house of worship parishioners; and, yes, …even family. You will know some of them, but it will inevitable that you will be reaching out to total strangers through the process.
This will require variation in approach, level of effort and unique forms of communication. Over the next part of this 5 part blog series, I will share with you the unique networking techniques I use in a methodology I call the '4 x 5 approach', a rigorous but personally fulfilling time investment that will yield rapid and relevant results as you attempt to build your client base.
There really is no rigid roadmap for building the daily '4 x 5 approach' to a robust network. In fact, it is intended to be flexible and adaptable to create a more enjoyable path to instilling networking as an innate discipline.
But the “4 x 5” is essentially a daily commitment to make at least twenty (20) points of contact or communication streams to expand your network. Here is the basic structure:
Contact at least five (5) people that are within your extended network. This means reach out and make 5 new connections on LinkedIn, Facebook, et.al.
Follow up on at least five (5) previous communications in the networking process. Follow-up is crucial … Networking is a delicate science of mixing tact with tenacity!
Contact at least five (5) enterprises directly to explore opportunities. Who you will reach out to will depend on your networking objective.
Connect with at least (5) professional social media or networking groups. Investing time in other people with similar professional profiles and pursuits is the key here.
As you undertake this approach, you will most likely want to “mix it up” by taking on more initial contacts one day (ie. 10 vs. 5), more follow-ups on another day, and even perhaps spending an entire digging into professional social media groups. This will keep the commitment to networking fresh and add some diversity to the process. But the key is twenty communications daily. Easy math will reveal that this baseline daily contact points will generate 100 communications in a normal business week!
During my search training, I learned about the 'flywheel effect' on time management, which is the rapid increase in activity created by the momentum of frequent and multifaceted communication. '4 x 5' will create the tailwinds for this flywheel effect in a matter of days!
A few reality checks on “4 x 5”:
If you have heavy or part-time professional commitments during the day (read: work), the 20 daily communications will be a challenge. But one can still start at a more methodical rate. Perhaps '2 x 5' or a variation thereof. The key is personal commitment to daily outreach.
Quality is important. On the subsequent blogs, we’ll point out some of the success criteria for a successful candidate for networking. Don’t just reach out to anyone to make the daily number.
You will be exhausted – but fulfilled - by day’s end. This may just be the observation of a hopeless introvert, but the process becomes exhilarating and consuming as you get deeper into the flywheel.
You may be done by early afternoon, but the process is mentally challenging while at the same time truly fulfilling, in that you will feel a major sense of accomplishment.