Learn from the past – networking isn’t new!

It’s worthwhile remembering that, although the word ‘networking’ has only entered into common use over the past few years, the activity is anything but new.

Go back hundreds of years and you’ll see that well-connected travellers would carry letters of introduction to several people they didn’t know in places they would pass through. One or more people who knew the traveller and the fact he didn’t have the right contacts in all of the places he’d visit provided those letters in order to help smooth the way for him in foreign lands.
 meeting
The idea was that each person he gave the letter to would act as host to the traveller whilst he was in his area, providing hospitality and introducing him around his circle of friends and business associates.

Each host would not normally expect any direct payment: However, in those days when you couldn’t just turn on the radio, television, or access the worldwide web, etc. for information, the guest would be expected to inform and entertain, bringing eagerly awaited news of people, places and events in other lands. He would also, doubtless, offer to reciprocate his host’s kindness, and extend that offer selectively to those of the host’s associates with whom he found a rapport or common interest.

By the time he arrived home the traveller would be able to bring back personal messages to his sponsors and update them on people, places and events abroad. Meanwhile he would have many new contacts and, possibly, friends that he would probably never have met had he been left to his own devices.

What is that if not a form of networking, which reminds me: How many times have we heard it said: “It’s not what you know – it’s who you know”?

Another example is membership: Membership of the freemasonry, old boys’ public school ‘clubs’ in the UK – often informal but nonetheless powerful for that – graduating from the same alma mater or belonging to the same sorority or fraternity in the USA are all fairly obvious examples where ‘who you know’ – not necessarily even directly but by association – can give you an advantage and get you that all important business or social introduction. You basically move right to the head of the queue.

Your new contact is reassured that he can expect you and your behaviour to conform to that of the peer group: Here is someone who understands the rules. Therefore he will also feel that he can save time on due diligence (checking you out).

Your path is made smoother by the fact that you are, provided you keep your implied part of the deal and continue to live up to expectations, one of the accepted.

As long as you remember the cardinal rule:

Do NOT try to sell to these people – forget it or ignore it and you’ll be branded a pushy pedlar – your aim is to build trusted relationships with each other…

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