The importance of momentum in networking

By Scott Torrance

We all know the importance of building a strong, deep network for success in business and yet if we’re honest with ourselves we don’t dedicate enough time to doing it well.

There are a few events in business that shakes us out of this slump and into action. Number one among those is looking for a new job. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to look beyond your company walls or your immediate network.

You’ve seen it on LinkedIn, the usually quiet person who you know is getting itchy feet updates their profile with a new picture and a checklist of words they think an employer might be interested in.

Suddenly she starts connecting with 10 people a day, following companies in a specific narrow industry and joins groups that have nothing to do with her current job. I often think that if her manager was more socially aware they may start to notice the signals and be in a better position to pre-emptively discuss any problems they are having— but that is a discussion for another day.

The problem is that whether it is a new job, looking for sales opportunities, or a new round of funding most people in business treat networking as an ON/OFF activity. They switch it ON when they need something and switch it OFF when they have achieved their goal.

In the process of job hunting you are building up your relationships both new and old, why give that up? When you switch it off, it can be that much harder to re-start.

I was driving in the Irish countryside last week when I saw an old water pump at the side of the road. Normally it wouldn’t have even registered on my radar, but in the previous week I had been chatting with Head’s MD Huw Martin about the ideas in this month’s networking series we are running and it reminded me of an interesting story.

Zig Ziglar told a story of two friends – Bernard Haygood and Jimmy Glenn – who stop at a water pump in the hot Alabama foothills in the height of summer to quench their thirst. The story captures two principles that are absolutely key to success in networking.

Principle one: Priming the pump

Bernard hopped out of the car, ran over to the pump, grabbed the handle and started pumping. After a moment or two of pumping, he pointed to an old bucket and suggested to Jimmy that he get the bucket and dip some water out of a nearby stream in order to ‘prime’ the pump.

As anyone who has used a water pump knows, you need to ‘prime the pump’ to get the flow of water started. This involves putting a little water inthe top to help create a vacuum that allows the fresh water to be drawn upwards.

Too often in business people expect to get the results without ever putting in the effort required.

Before you get anything out you have to put something in – it’s about give and take.

If the only networking you do is when you are looking for something; a job, money or even an introduction, people will start to notice and will become less receptive to your calls for help in the future.

Principle Two: The importance of momentum

After a couple of minutes of pumping in the blistering Alabama heat Bernard had worked up quite a sweat. After a time he said, “Jimmy, I don’t believe there’s any water in this well.” Jimmy replied, “Yes, there is, Bernard; in South Alabama the wells are deep and that’s good, because the deep well produces the good, clean, sweet, pure, best-tasting water of all.”
(Zig Ziglar, See You at the Top, 2005)

Isn’t that also true about relationships?

After another couple of minutes of pumping Bernard was becoming tired and turned to Jimmy and said “Jimmy, there just isn’t any water in this well.” Jimmy quickly grabbed the pump handle and kept pumping as he said, “Don’t stop now, Bernard; if you do, the water will go all the way back down and then you’ll have to start all over again.”

But after a lot of hard work once the water starts to flow all you have to do is keep a little bit of pressure on the pump and you will have a constant supply of water, more than you could ever want to drink. There is no way of looking at a pump and knowing how much time it is going to take to strike water. But as Ziglar says: “if you will pump long enough, hard enough and enthusiastically enough, sooner or later the effort will bring forth the reward.”

Apply these two principles to your networking activity and develop a habit over the long-term and the next time you are looking for a job you will be tapping into a deep reservoir of ‘the cleanest, sweetest, purest, best-tasting water of all’.

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