Steps to Networking – Step 17: Taking Inventory

Written By Rick Frishman Published April 4th, 2010

STEP 17: Taking Inventory

Your network inventory

Sharpen your focus by making a written list your network members. Don’t overlook anyone! Make your network broad and all-inclusive. Titles and positions can be deceptive and not indicate an individual’s abilities, connections or value to your network. Include people who you like and whom you enjoy being with and being associated with.


As automotive marketing guru James Ziegler was waiting for a flight at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport, Leo Mullin, CEO of Delta Airlines, was with a group being photographed for Delta’s magazine. Ziegler had always wanted to meet Mullin, but he resisted the temptation to introduce himself since Mullin was obviously busy.

A short while later, Ziegler noticed Mullin walking with Bill, a blue-collar mechanic for Delta, a friend of Ziegler’s from his adult Sunday school class. Earlier that day, Ziegler had bumped into Bill and said hello, but it never dawned on him that Bill was with Mullin. A few minutes later, Mullin walked over to Ziegler and introduced himself. He and Ziegler talked for about twenty minutes and exchanged business cards before Mullin returned to the photo shoot.

Shortly thereafter, Bill came by. Only then did Ziegler remember that several months ago, over coffee, he mentioned to Bill that he would really like to meet Mullin. Bill never indicated that he knew Mullin and Ziegler didn’t realize that Bill had access to him. Since that day at the airport, Ziegler has had a direct link to Mullin. Although he has never contacted Mullin to leverage the relationship, he occasionally sends him complimentary notes to report that he received outstanding service from Delta employees. Ziegler says that he would have no hesitation contacting Mullin, when appropriate, and believes that he could count on Mullin’s help.

On your list, write next to each name the reason you included that person on your list. Be specific.

Generally, those you list will fall into two categories:

1. Direct contacts (First generation contacts). People who have what you want and can give it to you directly. For example, your objective may be courtside tickets at Madison Square Garden, the names and contact information for media that cover fabric design or a meeting with your U.S. Senator. On your list, write down your precise objective.

2. Intermediary contacts (Second generation contacts). Those who can introduce you to or influence others who actually have, can deliver or lead you to your objective. Intermediaries usually can’t deliver your ultimate objective, but they can make introductions, write recommendation letters and move you closer to your destination.

Your personal inventory

Next, inventory your personal assets to identify what you can bring to the table and to learn what you really want. To find your personal assets, think about all the things you do well and enjoy doing, classes or training you’ve taken, awards you have won, jobs held, skills learned, accomplishments achieved and clients/customers satisfied. Don’t overlook “intangible” qualities such as determination, people skills, capacity for hard work, honesty, reliability, humor, kindness, taste, sensitivity and compassion.

Identify your talents, skills and values. Your:

• Talents are your natural attributes. Some lucky souls sing beautifully, while others can dunk a basketball or mentally calculate long rows of figures
• Skills are the capabilities that you acquired: Web site design, fine-furniture making or antique bookbinding.
• Values are the objectives that you consider important: high earnings, creativity, recognition or working in teams.

Remarkably, few people can identify talents, skills or values even though they play a crucial role in their behavior. When you approach people, they’re interested in benefits; they want to know what you can do for them. If you’ve identified your talents and skills, you can more clearly articulate the benefits that you can provide and see how it fits into different situations. Instead informing a network contact, “I’m an office administrator,” you can explain that you can keep a business running smoothly by handling hiring and firing, staff supervision, scheduling, ordering, bookkeeping and billing.

The most important factor in building strong relationships is that the parties share common values. According to Career Transition Coach, Randy Block, “The most important linkage in a networking situation is that you and your network partners share congruent values.” Think about it; it makes good sense. People prefer to deal with those who share their values. For example, if you like stability, working under pressure, heated competition or living on the edge, you’re probably going to be happier being with those who feel the same.

In the past, values were seldom discussed. However, when people who are connected share common values, bonds can be forged that can lead to strong, productive relationships. Common bonds make relationships work; they put people on the same page. So, if you’re trying to make a good match, focus on the other party’s values.

Think about your values. Look back on situations in which you had fun, were happy, successful, proud and made money. What did you like most about them and would like to replicate?

When you’ve identified your talents, skills and values, you will feel more confident because you recognized precisely what you have to offer and the values that make you happy. Your self knowledge and confidence will increase your ability to clearly communicate, which will boost your appeal. Instead of vaguely asking network contacts if they know of job openings, your approach will be stronger when you say, “This is what I’m good at, these are the benefits I provide. Do you know of anyone who can use my talents?”

(Excerpted from NETWORKING MAGIC: Making Connections That Will Change Your Life By Rick Frishman and Jill Lublin With Mark Steisel)

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