Networks are essential business resources that need to be maintained. They have purpose, structure and a defined set of objectives. Your connections are valuable assets, which grow in both volume and in value, and with the expanded authority and wherewithal that accompanies career development. Each relationship has its own half-life, which you can learn to monitor and manage.
The Value of Networking
Network flow is multi-direction. The network information you consume will have direct business development or business application value to you. But the information you produce will return value to you as well. A colleague you may come to depend upon in the future will be appreciative of your contribution and want to return the favor. Another will better understand your technical capabilities, business judgement, or connections, based upon the content you produce. In both instances, your network value becomes elevated, and you’ll be the first to get the call for the next opportunity.
Networks tap into related interests and alternative perspectives, and provide access to otherwise inaccessible information. Your network is a conduit to market knowledge, industry leading practices, new idea test-flights, crucially valuable alternative perspectives, career springboards, and even off-market deal participation.
Horizontal loyalty and reciprocity have become increasingly important and can overshadow the vertical loyalties inherent in a traditional employment structure. Because of the explosion in digital connectivity, the rise of the gig economy, and real estate’s fundamental project nature, your informal network transactions will represent stronger business ties than those you have with your firm’s leadership cadre. Your job is about production and performance; your network, on the other hand, is about the informal development and flow of ideas and opportunities. Within your network, your focus will be lateral, toward your peers, rather than vertical, toward your firm’s hierarchy. This is a matter of choosing where you feel most comfortable sharing perspectives, values, aspirations, and interests. This is where you will get your next great idea, your next market update, your next deal, or your next job.
And when you respond in kind, the network is validated and reinforced.
Leveraging Your Connections
In the real world, the rules of networking are neither obvious nor consistent. However, with the following set of guideposts, you can be effective.
Reach out when it is not necessary, so you can when it is
Manage relationship half-lives
Do your homework and research so you can carry a topic
Become known as a producer as well as a conduit of network content
Share the personal and passionate—the basis of human connection
Follow-up, so value perceived becomes value preserved
Expand your reach by accessing weak or distant networks
Understand the value of the lateral connection, especially compared to the vertical
Take the long, career-long, view
In summation, it doesn’t take much to be conversant, and the return on investment can be very high.
James B. King
James B. King teaches Real Estate Fundamentals for the master’s in Real Estate program at Georgetown University. James is a Real Estate & Facilities Practice Leader in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Public Sector Practice. He focuses on delivering user/occupant focused facilities capital project and portfolio management solutions to U.S. federal agencies, overseas multilateral organizations, and commercial clients. He is a Licensed Architect and a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Accredited Professional, LEED AP.