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Networking: What’s the Real ROI?

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As Peter Drucker said:  “If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it“.

Most of us know it’s networking that makes the world go round these days:

  • It’s not just who you know;  it’s also who knows you
  • It’s an on-going activity;  it’s not efficient to start it, as many people do, when they find themselves “in between assignments”, then stop when they land on their feet
  • It’s all about collaboration;  both parties have to achieve their ”what’s in it for me”
  • Up to 80% of all career opportunities are filled via networking rather than traditional “published” job adverts

Some of us are still struggling with how to network.  There’s definitely no one-size-fits-all technique!

  • Group Events:  Many people prefer to get out there 3 to 5 evenings a week, collect as many business cards as possible and get on as many radar screens as possible.  I live in a smaller city, see many of the same people and have much the same 3 to 4 minute conversation with them each time so this is not where I spend the majority of my time
  • Social Media:  Many people list hundreds (even thousands) of connections on their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.  But how well do they really know each person?  Which people would they go to first if they needed specific info, advice or support?  For me, quality of connection is more important than quantity.  Again, this isn’t where I spend most of my time
  • One-on-one:  This is definitely my personal preference!  Meeting like-minded colleagues (usually through e-introductions from colleagues), determining how I might share info and resources with them, building a strong connection over time is the approach that works best for me

Many of us may not have tracked our actual and opportunity costs and analyzed how they add measurable value, creating a positive return on investment.

Pop quiz!  For the past quarter:

  • Track your investment in networking, both:
    • Actual costs, e.g. breakfast, coffee, lunch, drinks, dinner, gas, parking…
    • Opportunity costs, e.g. your time expressed as your hourly rate (don’t forget to factor in pay at risk and benefits as well as base salary) and consider how else you could be spending that time, e.g. family, learning, community volunteer, ”me time”…
  • Analyze how these investments have added measurable value, e.g. led to a specific new role, developmental assignment, business project, collegial relationship (mentor), etc.
  • Find the best approach (or combination) and stick to your knitting!  Once you measure your ROI, you can better manage your success going forward

Whichever approach you take, it’s a two-way street.  The keys to success include:

  • Connecting in a meaningful way on a timely way for both of you
  • Sharing info and resources (collaboration always works more effectively and efficiently than competition!)
  • Building a mutually beneficial relationship over the long term.