Research tells us that how we define something dictates the activities we subscribe to it. There is a famous example from the turn of the 19th century that illustrates this point. In an effort to change how the public perceived his company, the president of a railroad company declared, “We are not a train company – we are a transportation company!” Suddenly, by viewing his organization as a provider of transportation and not just an owner of trains, he created new customer perspectives and business opportunities.
If the way we define something dictates the activities that we attach to it, we are at risk of using a definition that limits us. In my workshops, the vast majority of participants define networking as:
“Two individuals meeting to share information that will help the other person, either now or in the future.”
When you take a few moments to assign activities to this definition of networking, your list may look similar to the following:
- Meet another individual.
- Meet in person (i.e., at a coffee shop), by phone, or via Skype.
- Share information.
- Share leads.
- Provide information and leads that help the other person.
That’s it! This common definition of networking and the limited number of activities which can be assigned to the definition is the core challenge for busy business professionals working to survive in fastpaced and fast-changing organizations. This definition does not reflect the environment in which you work, and it is too limiting in the activities it creates.
In order to maximize the activities in which you can participate as you work to increase your impact at work, a new definition for networking is needed. Consider putting your old definition of networking aside and apply the following new definition.
“Networking is any activity that raises my visibility and value in my organization and industry.”
By using this definition, your mindset changes and your focus shifts to a broader set of activities that raise your visibility and value in your organization and industry. With this definition, you infuse activities into your current workday that raise your visibility among decision makers, without adding more activities into your already busy day. With this definition, you ensure that the work that you do adds value to what is important to your organization. You will not be doing busy work that leaves you physically and mentally drained and feeling undervalued. With this definition, you increase your success at work.
You can find Ed’s book, Raise Your Visibility & Value: Uncover the Lost Art of Connecting on the Job