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Long time ago, Gerard de Gier, my former colleague and Dutch network expert came up with a beautiful definition of networking: Netwerken is net werken [Networking neatly]. ‘Intermediair’ considered this Dutch word-play so relevant that it used it a few years ago as the title for an extended interview with Gerard about networking. We were so proud!

Throughout the years, networking has become essential in my professional agenda. The same goes for sports in my private life: for 10 years now, I try to run three times a week in order to stay in good shape. I don’t always manage to do it three times a week, but two times is no problem at all. In the same way, I spend a few hours a week maintaining my network. I don’t do it each week to the same extent, but it is always occupying my mind. I’m strongly convinced that everyone should spend some time interacting with the outside world in a structural way, because if you don’t, your network will slowly die out and become obsolete. Consequently, you will experience much more difficulties to reach your goals (either for yourself or for the organization you are representing). It is by elaborating my professional network in a structural way, that I have had the opportunity to meet so many extremely nice and interesting people. I have been making some (professional) friends, I have been travelling around the world and – last but not least - my network offered me the opportunity to reach many of my professional objectives.

You have to repair the roof when the sun is shining. This is so obvious. In terms of networking, this means: make and keep contact with people when you don’t need them. Try to find out what you can offer them, instead of what they can offer you. Give them something, without expecting anything in return. Your personal relations have to be true, otherwise it won’t work.

You will notice that you will regularly meet people you click with, but apart from its more social and emotional aspect, networking has also a rational aspect. For instance, you should make sure that your network is sufficiently diversified, meaning that you have to try to stay in touch with people of different ages. You should know some people from different disciplines, regions or countries and at different organizational levels. Keep contact with people with different backgrounds and professions. Proceed purposefully, but step by step. Originally, you don’t know yet for which purpose you will rely on your network in order to help someone. Your relationships with the people of your network should be true, but your efforts to do some networking should be planned. So, this is a huge essential difference.

According to me, the factor 5 formula has always been meaningful for those wanting to extend their network. I’ll explain it. Find someone of whom you think you share the same moral values or interests. You can also ask a mutual acquaintance to introduce you to that person. Introduce yourself and patiently wait for an answer. If this new contact reacts, than say thank you and provide him/her with some more details about yourself. Tell your new contact that you can help him/her when necessary. If you make 5 new contacts a month this way, you will create a network allowing you to change everything! If you need some advice or support one day, you will already be in touch with a group of people who might be able to help you. Ask your contacts to transfer your request to some of their contacts. But remember: always do it personally! Nobody likes to be treated as a number.

The formula is the following: (5)x(5) = 25 ^*^ (25)x(5)=125 ^*^(125)x(5)=625, etc.


By Paul Donkers

"my purpose is to help improve strategy execution, to create high performing teams and coach for effective business leaders"

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