Are You A Networker? Or Are You Just Bothering People? Transitioning From Networking To Information Brokering

Everything done well, leads to the next level of knowledge. In our chosen career of employment, networking is a vital element if we are to sustain our growth. But, what is it we want to be when we grow up? Well, whatever it may be, if you have developed a deep, connected, and interactive network, the only real limitations are your core talent and mature imagination. I refer to the elements of core talent and mature imagination because no matter how good your network, you cannot be a brain surgeon unless you go to medical school. (At least I hope that is still a requirement!) A “Networker”, as we have discussed, has invested time in gathering, contacting, and developing relationships with people within their markets who can share useful information, leads, names, or any other data that may help in developing business. This is a process that requires an investment of time and resources. But, the development and working of your network does not have to end when you have filled all 96 Megs of your PC with names, phone numbers, and occupations of every living person you have met in the last 5-10 years. In many ways, that is just the beginning. A Networker reacts to a request. It may be a client, or their boss. But, for most of us, the front half of our career is spent using our network to do the bidding of others. For that effort they pay us a percentage of the value of that effort. An “Information Broker” is a Networker who generates business as a consequence of their network. You are connected, to connected people. Imagine if you will the act of throwing a pebble into a pond. A series of waves generate from the center until they diminish. The radius of the circle is in direct proportion to the size of the pebble. That is equivalent to a new Networker just starting out. Imagine if you will, a handful of rocks being thrown into the same pond. The radius of the waves, size, and sheer energy greatly exceeds the pebble. More importantly, each radius impacts with others and at the point of impact, new energy waves are generated and the process continues. In essence, this is equivalent to the impact of an Information Broker. Today, many of us will start the day checking web sites, reading Help Wanted sections of newspapers and professional journals, and calling contacts in employment seeking a mission. On being assigned that mission, we will throw our pebble into the pond and get to work. The Information Broker will pick up the phone, and as a consequence of their networking, be asked to provide assistance with a “need.” Rocks thrown in a pond. This will be one of several the “Information Broker” will work today. Their payment can be a standard fee agreement, a time/billing or task/billing situation, they may be on retainer, but this is how they go to work every morning. The Information Broker is in essence, an accomplished Networker. The dividing line begins, as in all careers, with practice. The longer you have been networking, the greater and deeper your network. If you have been especially diligent, then you are probably recognized as a “guru” in your chosen field by more than just your spouse and parents. As your level of networking has deepened, so have your contacts. As you have grown in your career, so have they. Several years ago I was at a career event where a friend pointed out an “Information Broker” to me. He said, “Get to know him. He knows everybody!” That was his product and service list, “I know everybody!” His sales and marketing department were both his products and his end users, us. His primary effort, showing up. His revenue sources varied. He worked contract assignments, special “searches” for special friends, was retained by some firms to provide analysis or industry based information, and made a few dollars standing at podiums while the rest of us ate our choice of Chicken Kiev or Cobb Salad. But he loved his work, and had more fun making money than most do spending money. The way to become an Information Broker is to keep at networking. There is no way to teach how to achieve Information Brokering. All the tools and tricks come as a result of constant networking–the years of contacting new people in business, and developing a relationship. Developing a history with those contacts where the relationship is no longer based on “who owes who a favor?” The mutual respect and recognized mutual need, is the bond. Networks are like politics. Almost everyone you know has an opinion about it, but nobody does anything about it. To many in our industry networking is an on again, off again, kind of thing that we think of as a last resort. Most of us, it would appear, would rather hit a bookmark to a well-traveled web site that 6,278 other information seekers had mined the same day as you. The result, the same 68 resources are wondering why they are getting 6,278 emails? Whew! If tomorrow, your boss tells you to find out where the best place to recruit IS professionals is and you cannot think of one good name that would help you, you need a network. If, tomorrow your boss is giving you tasks for you to resolve and you have a couple of dozen contacts to check-in with, you are a Networker. If, tomorrow, you do not have a boss, the phone/email messages are piling up and you cannot make up your mind which assignment to take, you are an Information Broker. This means you invested 5-10 years building a business that consists on knowing whom to call, knowing the number, and knowing they will return your call first! Good Networking to you.

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Ken Gaffey (kengaffey@comcast.net) is currently an employee of CPS Personal Services (www.cps.ca.gov) and has been involved in the Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration project since its inception. Prior to this National Security project Ken was an independent human resources and staffing consultant with an extensive career of diversified human resources and staffing experience in the high-tech, financial services, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical industries. His past clients include Hewlett Packard, First Data Corporation, Fidelity Investments, Fleet Bank, Rational Software, Ericsson, Astra Pharmaceutical, G&D Engineering, and other national and international industry leaders. In addition to contributing articles and book reviews to publications like ERE, Monster.com, AIRS, HR Today, and the International Recruiters Newsletter, Ken is a speaker at national and international conferences, training seminars, and other staffing industry events. Ken is a Boston native and has lived in the greater Boston area most of his life. Ken attended the University of South Carolina and was an officer in the United States Marine Corps.

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