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Networking - Part 2

Yesterday I started discussing networking and the idea that it's time invested with no guarantee of a return on that investment. Today let's talk about networking for the regular guy.

Who do you think of or know that is a good networker? Is it a friend, your boss, a politician on TV? Picturing someone that knows everyone, smiles and kisses babies, has a contact list 2 miles long?

Some of those stereotypes are true, but not a good fit for most of us. Most regular/real people don't feel like selling their brand all the time everywhere, are a bit (or more) introverted with new people and new places, and hate the idea that we're trying to meet people only because of what they might be able to do for us. Or is that just me?

Hopefully not just me.

It's not out of the question that I'd call someone I know for some minor help, but I'd have to be starving to send an email to my contact list promoting my upcoming classes or whatever it was I was selling. There's a time when you know it makes sense to reach out, and it doesn't happen as often as I'd like (to increase my networking ROI of course!) - so let's just realize that and not aim so high.

My current approach to networking is to just meet people. I'm currently in the training business so you might argue that I've got more reason to do this than someone who is "just" a DBA, but I don't think that's true (will try to come back to that point). I don't know when I'm going to meet someone that needs training (or a DBA), or that months later will in turn know someone that needs training or a DBA.

So I just meet people and hope?

Yes, and no. Sure I hope that some of those contacts will result in business, but it's a longshot. Instead, I just take each new person as a chance to grow. It's downright rare that I meet someone that afterward I'm wishing I could get the time back. More often, they've shown me a view of something I hadn't seen before, or given me a chance to explain my thoughts and point of view - and doing that challenges my presentation skills and my thinking. We might chat about a presentation we both attended, a hobby, the event, work, family, who knows. I might visit with them for 2 minutes or an hour, usually the time is determined by other factors/distractions.

I work on listening (it's easy to want to talk) and that's about it. I don't posture, though I'm more guarded with strangers than with old friends (you gotta know me to appreciate me un-filtered at times!). And I won't be selling anything. My friend Joe Healy calls me a 'stealth marketer' because I never talk about what I do as far as a sales pitch (and he  might be right, marketing is definitely a skill I need to build - but that's another post).

Next time I'll talk about 'how'. I'd appreciate thoughts in the interim!


I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.


Posted by John Magnabosco on 8 January 2009

Without networking the career of being a developer or DBA is just a job.

Without networking events like SQL Saturday, IndyTechFest, and monthly user group meetings would not exist.

You become a more valuable developer or DBA when you are involved in the technical community.

Posted by Cory Ellingson on 8 January 2009

I am one that struggles in the networking.  I like this article as it gives me some thing to think about.  I do want to partially disagree with a point John stated: "You become a more valuable developer or DBA when you are involved in the technical community."  I do not think that is always true, you could just be more known.  Point in case, if someone was involved, but incorrect (either in answers or just trying to sell a product or similar), then that has not added any value, just noise.

Posted by Jack Corbett on 8 January 2009

I too struggle with networking and it is a skill I am working on.  For me it comes down to 2 things, not being a confident conversation starter and because, as you say, I don't want to people to think I am getting to know them just so I can get something from them.  

I have learned within the last couple of years that the second point is not something you really should worry about because most people like to help others.

Posted by Anonymous on 9 January 2009

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Posted by Sanjeev Jha on 9 January 2009

For some Networking is just to have 'number' in their contact list. For others, Neworking is spent put an time spent. Like Andy said 'Leap of Faith', just may be 'return in long shot', or just a future opportunity. To my personal experience, the reward of networking stands true for Jonathan Kehayias (MCITP, MVP). Just read what he has written in his blog recapping year 2008:

'It is really amazing to look back on 2008, and see what all I have accomplished both personally as well as professionally.  At the start of 2008, I was completely unknown in the SQL Server Community and online.  I had asked a grand total of 4 questions on the forums and had never once answer someone else's question.  I had never written a blog post, or technical article online.

To recap this year, I have replied over 5000 times to questions on MSDN forums, SQL Server Central Forums, and Microsoft Newsgroups.  I have posted 128 blog posts, written 2 articles for SQL Server Central and 28 articles on the SQL Examples Site on Code Project.  I also did a Live Meeting for the PASS DBA Special Interest Group, and presented at 3 user groups and 4 different conferences this year.  

If you are reading this and you haven't done a presentation, written a blog post, or online article, then hopefully this will motivate you to get your start.  If you think you don't know enough, or that people won't be interested, then try and do the presentation at your local user group first.  You'll be surprised with the outcome and amount of interest that there may be, I can almost guarantee it. '

Source: jmkehayias.blogspot.com/.../another-year-gone-2008-in-review.html

This is what I call inspirational and motivational.


Posted by Stephanie J Brown on 11 January 2009

We usually hear networking in terms of "best way to find a new job" (or market yourself, which is pretty much the same thing).  I think that's what makes some people reluctant.

Switch to thinking of it as both a way to learn new things from new people you meet, and a way to share your knowledge with others (the Kehayias way!)  I've always found it tough to strike up a conversation with a stranger, but watched my father-in-law-equivalent do it (with quite a bit of awe on my part, mind you).  One day I asked him how he managed that, and his reply (paraphrased) was:

"Everyone has a story to tell; all I have to do is ask and then listen."

That put a whole different perspective on it for me, and I find it easier now to talk to strangers.  Isn't it funny, parents spend their time telling their children not to talk to strangers, and then as adults we're told it's critical to our success.  Quite the dichotomy there.

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