Networking events for IT professionals. Award winning blog series. Weekly podcast. Meet. Read. Listen. By @echodave, @bobwaltenspiel

The Bachelor Party Hypothesis

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Originally posted 2015-06-27 22:31:55. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By now, you’ve read our entries in the Networking Basics category, and even a few of the How Not To Suck realm.

You’ve probably started to build up a network of your own.

Well, now I’m going to tell you how to properly categorize and inventory network, so that you can take stock of where you are in the process and figure out where you need to be tweaking things to make sure you get where you want to be.

And also why we keep harping on the whole “LION” thing and why “open networking” doesn’t help you.

At all…

You know I like analogies and metaphors.  It’s an easy way to get a bridge between “where my head is” and “you understand what I’m babbling about”.

So let’s put it in the context of your real world friends.

Everyone has a “hierarchy” among their friends.  Whether they admit it or not, whether they talk about it or not, whether they’d ever tell anyone else that or not…they do.

In most cases, it’ll look something like that pyramid over on the right.

Which yes, I know is tiny.  So click it to get a better view.

And yes, I know we hate pyramids.

But in this case, it’s an effective tool to represent what I’m talking about.

So down at the bottom, you have your casual acquaintances.  People that you run into at a bar every now and then.  You may or may not remember their name, and so it’s “Hey dude!” or “Hi babe!” when you run into them.  Probably a distant friend of a friend of a friend…or someone that you knew ages ago.  You’re not “close” by any stretch of the imagination, and you’d be seriously pissed off at the end of the night when you realized they were ordering their drinks on your tab all night before mysteriously vanishing 20 minutes earlier.  It’s a transient group that comes and goes, and nobody really cares about any of them.  Or each other.

A step above that, you have the people you’d invite to your wedding.  Maybe some of the people from the lower tier.  People you work with, and with whom you have developed at least a casual friendship.  Family…even the ones you haven’t seen since the last family reunion 15 years ago because your aunt tells you that if you don’t invite cousin Joanna and her boyfriend there will be hurt feelings and family drama.  And don’t even start thinking about the same conversations on your spouse-to-be’s side…you’ll never see most of those people again in your life.  You might feel a passing, momentary sadness if you got news that someone in this group had gotten critically injured or died…but it wouldn’t even really mess up your day or anything.

Climb up another step, and you have the friends you’d invite to your bachelor party.  There’s an implied level of trust and commitment there.  You have shared stories, and probably some shared secrets, with the members of this group.  You’re close enough that you trust them to be there, and want them to be there, when you absolutely, positively need to have a great night of fun…without having to worry about flapping gums down the road.  You know all of these people by sight and name, and they’re most likely in your recent contact history of your phone in any given week.

On top, and there’s a reason why it’s red, we have our critical friends.  That very select few whom we would call at three in the morning after getting arrested and need someone to come bail us out.  They won’t judge…okay, well, they might judge…but at least it’ll be with your best interests in mind.  The same goes in return – they’re one of the few people from whom a 3am phone call is something you’d actually answer, and you’d probably get into a fight with your spouse/significant other over leaving somewhere to go to their aid at a moment’s notice if needed.  Key note though – in order for this really to be true and effective, both of you have to have each other in that red zone.  That’s commitment.

So that’s your pyramid of friends.

Now let’s talk about your network.

LIONs have a lot of people sitting on the bottom of this pyramid.  Which, yes, again you can click to load larger and actually be able to read it.

If you have a huge number of people in your network that you couldn’t pick out of a police line up…even if you had a gun to your head…you’re failing at networking.  Big time.  You don’t know them, they don’t know you, and you can’t possibly be doing each other any favors…well, other than trying to hit that mythical high score for connections.

A step above that, we have people that you at least know to some degree.  Co-workers from jobs three to ten years ago that you found during a random bout of clicking, or whom you stumbled across, or who stumbled across you, one day and reached out to connect.  People that you’ve met at one or two networking events.  Just like the wedding invite list, these are people around whom you’re at least semi-comfortable and with whom you can hold a conversation.  But you still wouldn’t exactly offer to pick up the tab for dinner and drinks one night for the both of you, either.

One up from there…now…now…we’re getting to your “real” network.  The people you talk and email with on at least a weekly (if not daily) basis.  The people you seek out when you get to an event because you’re instantly comfortable with them based on past conversations that both of you want to continue.  You help them, and they help you.  You pass information back and forth without reservation.  You’re okay asking them questions, because you know they won’t think you’re dumb when you do…and they can ask of you for the same reason.  This, truly, is the start of your core network.  The lower tier is nice to have…and the bottom is, as noted, useless…but here’s where you want people to be at a minimum.  And at least where you want them to think of you as being, too.

At the top…again, red because of the critical nature of it…are those select few that really, truly matter to you within your network.  The ones that you can call as you’re walking to your car after getting told your position’s been eliminated, knowing that they will move mountains to get you into a new job ASAP.  But just like friends…this only really, truly works if you’re both in each other’s red zone, and at the top of each other’s pyramid.  Just because I met a high-end headhunter once at a networking event and we had a great time, that doesn’t mean that when I call her out of desperation that there’s any sense of urgency on the other end of the phone.  Just because she’s in my red zone of criticality doesn’t mean that I’ve made it past the base of her pyramid.

And so now, here’s your homework.

Take a good, hard look at the network you’ve been building…and figure out which step everyone fits into using the above descriptions.

Most importantly – start weeding out the ones that will never make it beyond the yellow, and start cultivating the ones that you want to see move up into those blue and red zones.

It’s very simple – the yellow zone is where dead weight lives.  More often than not, it’s full of people that you’ll only hear from when they want something from you.  We talked through this a bit when we (only half-jokingly) ran with our first “International Prune Your Network Day“.  Yes, there’s a grace period allowed for figuring out who needs cultivation into a higher echelon and who needs to get their branch cut away…but it’s not “forever”.  Some basic criteria that I use and discussed over there are:

It’s your call as to what a “valuable” connection to you means.  Personally, I’m going to use the following guidelines while I’m going through my list on International Prune Your Network Day:

– Have we exchanged emails that had any meaning to them in the last year?

– Has my connection to you had a direct benefit to me, or someone else in my network, in the last year?

– Have we talked on the phone in the last six months?

– Do I know what you do day to day?

– Have we actually met in person?

– Can I remember where, when, and what we discussed?

No?  To all of those?  See ya.

Again – it’s up to you to build your cutoff criteria.  Everyone has their own comfort level with how much dead weight they feel they can support.  But remember the lessons from LinkedIn Is Not a Video Game, folks – eventually, if the dead weight in your network starts to have an impact on me and my network…well, you might find yourself slipping down a notch or two in my world.

Or just simply pruned.

Well, that’s all for this time.  Now go find something else to read…

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