If I gave you a brown paper bag filled with all the pieces from a jigsaw puzzle, you would slowly be able to put the puzzle together. You would start with the border and define the edges. Then you'd try to group similar colors together. Finding the right pieces that just happened to fit would be dumb luck and a lot of trial and error. But you'd muddle through it eventually.
If I gave you the same puzzle — but this time in the box with the cover picture up front — you would put the puzzle together much faster being that you know how it is supposed to look in advance. You'd have a much better idea of which pieces group together.
Knowing what the picture looks like before you start out gives you clarity. You know where to put your time & energy. You see the connections. Life's like that too. Knowing and understanding the big picture — who's related to who and what's connected to what — lets you hone in and know where to begin. Knowing how all the pieces fit together is the essence of networking.
This is a great metaphor and I use it anytime anyone asks me why I study the dynamics of networking. Given the choice, everyone prefers to build the puzzle knowing how it's supposed to turn out. Why waste time when you can have a detailed map to guide and help you? Only life's not that simple. You really never get the picture upfront. There's no blueprint for how everyone's connected and interrelated. That knowledge only comes from experience and exposure.
That's where you come in. It's your job to build up that cover picture for your own life. And the faster and better that you do this — the more you will advance in your career and life. That is the essence of why I teach this.
Focusing on building up this cover picture is concrete and specific. It's not just feel-good words about making new friends. It is measurable and controllable and there are specific steps to follow to help you catalog your own network. Here are 3 critically important things that you can do right now to turbocharge this process.
- Invest in a personal CRM system. This will help you track and remember relationships and connections.
- Sit down with your boss, with your peers, with your co-workers, and with people who have been in your company or organization much longer than you have. Pick their brains. Ask them about who's related to whom. Ask them about gatekeepers and people who open and close doors. Mentally download their pictures so that you're not starting from scratch.
- Subscribe to and read as many industry-specific trade publications as you can. Follow the people whose career you are interested in on social media. Make notes of who works where and what they do. You can — and you should — log your notes in your CRM system. Put them on your radar as someone you would like to meet later on.
When you focus your time and attention on building out your own landscape picture, you gain invaluable insights into how things work in your world. You start to see connections and patterns that you didn't notice before. You start to think differently. And things begin to grow from there.