NETWORKING – It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know

That statement reminds me of Ron White, a stand-up comic and longstanding member of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. I remember watching Ron’s Just For Laughs routine when I was a kid, where he spoke of a man in Florida who decided he was going to tie himself to a tree to prove he could withstand the force of a hurricane. Ron, as if to impart some wisdom on this intrepid individual, said “It’s not that the wind is blowing, it’s what the wind is blowing… If you get hit with a Volvo, it doesn’t really matter how many sit-ups you did that day”.

Hurricanes and feats of strength are one thing. Networking is an entirely different animal. Most people, consciously or not, believe that when you attend an event, shake some hands, and exchange a few business cards, you’ve done enough. The reality is, while those interactions can be effective in the short-term, it’s unlikely they will be of much use in the long run.

Calling up Bob Sacamano at Vandelay Industries (yeah, that’s right) a year after introducing yourself at a conference will only amount to a painfully long awkward silence as he tries his best to figure out exactly who you are.

Networking never stops. Once you’ve made an excellent contact, it’s up to you to maintain it. This doesn’t mean you have to become BFF’s, but it does require you put a little effort into checking in once in a while. A great habit to get into is sending a short email to all the people who handed you business cards the day after an event. When you want to keep up the dialogue, a “Great meeting you at…” email is a sure-fire way to keep ol’ Bob in your pocket in case you ever need him. 

Going back to Ron White, I believe he was onto something. I like to compare handshaking and shoulder-tapping to the wind while building a meaningful and mutually beneficial relationship is the Volvo.

If you want to make an impact professionally — be the Volvo, not the wind.

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