Writers and speakers emphasize the role of networking in earning an income, but it is also important in other areas of financial independence.
See every person you meet as someone who can help you now or in the future. The mistake that many people make is to pass judgment on others, killing off potential sources of contact or information. In real life, all sorts of people can be useful. You might meet people at the pub or school, and on the plane or on the bus.
Example: Once I took a bus just for fun and sat next to a clerk from a global delivery firm. He carried a helmet, which meant he rode a motorbike. His educational and income levels were clearly low and most people would easily write him off. The bus ride was in Penang, which is a major global centre for chip production – the level of shipment was an indicator of demand and production worldwide. At that time, there was a lull in the business and investors were asking when the upturn would come. The clerk told me that shipment volumes had increased dramatically in the last week. I knew that the information would take a week or so to reach the well-informed people in brokerages and investment banks. Using this information, I took in a trading position in some stocks – which rose in value when global chip sales data became public.
Keep in touch with people. Either you exercise your contacts or you lose them. Some friends and acquaintances only need low degrees of contact (e.g. a card or phone call) while others need more ‘touch’ (a drink, a meal or socializing together). The degree depends on several things: how important the relationship is to you, how well you know the person, the person’s personality, your own nature, and whether you have an immediate aim.
Enhance your credit. Networking is sometimes a matter of altruism but often it is just simple quid pro quo. One way is to help other people actively – with introductions, with references, and giving advice.
Another way is to give little presents – this is popular in Asian settings. These presents need not be expensive. One friend collected airline toiletries bags and gave to her friends. Another friend always gave the airline gifts to his staff. Other ways to show you are keeping a person in mind is to buy little things for him or her when you travel – these things might be difficult to get or expensive at home.
Make use of indirect contacts. You multiply the power of your network when you use contacts of contacts. Most of the time your networking would be opportunistic, i.e. there is no immediate result from having the contact. On occasions, your networking needs to be targeted. For example, there is a particular job vacancy or a specific potential client. On these occasions, indirect contacts can be immensely useful. You use the people you know to introduce you to people you don’t know yet – bringing you directly to the opportunity.
See also: Practice the 80:20 rule.
Caveat: Many people overwork and suffer a breakdown – I have seen too many cases. Learn to relax deeply and know your own limits