Even in a robust economy, at least 70 percent of corporate positions are landed because of someone you know, according to several data sources. In a weak economy, the adage is never more true, especially for entrepreneurs and the self-employed, whose business survival is directly related to each contact and sale that can be generated.
Social networking has increased dramatically since the economic downfall in 2008. However, those who are thriving have learned that networking is more than just filling a contact list with names and numbers. It is about making personal connections, building relationships and offering reciprocal help even when there is nothing to gain in the short term.
In 2005, entrepreneur Keith Ferrazzi explored in his engaging book, Never Eat Alone, how successful business professionals are able to flip new acquaintances into life-altering relationships. Ferrazzi contends that the primary difference between networking and connecting is the ability to help others build their networks while simultaneously building your own. By passing on knowledge gained, others will be more willing to share their knowledge with you. Success fundamentally rests not only on the ability to reach out to other people but also to build real connections. Ferrazzi calls this genuine relationship building.
This concept of quid pro quo has been around as long as business relationships have existed. The point is to not keep score, to reach out when you do not need something, to help whenever you can. It is important to identify what your colleagues need, then offer creative, valuable solutions. This can be as simple as sharing a link on Facebook to a recent research study in their industry, referring a client to their services or just being there to listen and brainstorm.
This idea of networking through relationship building is one reason why professional social sites, such as LinkedIn, Xing, Viadeo and Plaxo, have experienced such phenomenal success in the past few years. LinkedIn is growing by 1 million users ever week, while a new Social Recruiting Survey by Jobvite [http://www.insidefacebook.com/2011/07/12/report-percentage-of-companies-recruiting-on-facebook-stagnates-growing-just-0-7-this-year/] indicates that nearly 87 percent of businesses actively recruit using LinkedIn.
LinkedIn’s Press Center [http://press.linkedin.com/success-stories] recently released several success stories, including an Italian lawyer who has converted 70 percent of his international connections into clients, as well as an American entrepreneur who landed an executive position with IBM through his profile. Each story contains one similar element – they all focused on developing quality relationships with each person they befriended rather than just amassing a large number of nameless followers.
Many more of these stories exist and will grow. I would love to hear from you about your own.