Professional Networking is All About Guanxi

by The HeadHunter on April 26, 2009

The Chinese concept of Guanxi embodies the power of real networking. 

What is Guanxi?

Guanxi (pronounced “kwan-she”) defined by Wikipedia: “… a personal connection between two people in which one is able to prevail upon another to perform a favor or service, or be prevailed upon…  Guanxi can also be used to describe a network of contacts, which an individual can call upon when something needs to be done, and through which he or she can exert influence on behalf of another.”

In Chinese business, having the right Guanxi is critical to success.  Business networking relationships are defined by what individuals are willing to do on behalf of one another.  One  is considered to have good Guanxi if they are able to exert their influence to help others.  There is an obligatory sense of give and take among the members of individual networks.  Guanxi is established and enhanced through the performance of favors and the exercise of good will.   Guanxi goes far deeper than connection or acquaintance.  Guanxi is business capital.  

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Where’s the Guanxi in Social Networking?

It appears that many social networking aficionados, even when connecting to people they don’t really know, aren’t compelled to say “hi”, make an introduction, provide meaningful contact information or even state a reason for connecting.  LinkedIn is one example of rampant Guanxi-less connections.  Many people seeking new connections reach out with only the default one- liner:  “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”  No greeting.  No introduction.  No personalized message.  No contact information.

Wait a minute.  Business connections without introductions?  Business connections without personalized messages?  Business connections without contact information?   Is this just bad manners and lack of networking skills or could this be an emerging ”Networking 2.0″ standard? 

If you’re social networking to expand your professional networking efforts, then your purpose should be to increase your Guanxi.  If you’re seeking to increase your Guanxi, then connecting in a meaningful way isn’t just good manners, it’s critical to your networking purpose. 
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Connecting with Guanxi in Mind
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Making a lot of “connections” doesn’t mean you’re networking.  Connecting  just increases your so-called “connections”.  It’s easy to connect (or attempt to connect) without  much real effort and without meaningful intent.  But connecting this way doesn’t enhance your real networking.  To attain Guanxi (the real reason to network in the first place) you need to establish relationship equity with a close knit group of trusted people that you know and to whom you are known.  Guanxi involves real give and take.  It starts with connecting with another’s perceptions and interests in mind.

People involved in real professional networking follow a friendly, communicative connection protocol.  First, they introduce themselves (in-person, by phone, in email, on LinkedIn, etc.) with something like: “Hi Rick, my name is Bob.  I’m with ACME Recruiting and I specialize in the placement of IT professionals”.  This is often followed with an invitation to a brief phone chat, or a meet-up.  The invitation usually reads/sounds something like: “I know how busy you are so I’d like to set up a 10 minute phone chat to get acquainted.  I think it’ll be interesting to explore ways we might benefit from knowing each other.”  Then comes the contact information.  There is no connection without contact information. 

Real networking starts with following good protocal and making a quality connection.  It continues in a personalized and meaningful way meant to open the door to a real networking (Guanxi) relationship. 

Networking for Guanxi

Real networking is about establishing and increasing Guanxi.  The rules don’t change from real world to web site.  Even though connecting in mass can be a strategic plus in leveraging the power of social networking tools, making personalized connections and providing full contact information is always the right (and smart) thing to do.  After all, why would you “connect” with someone you wouldn’t share your contact information with?

Networking is a direct contact sport.  It involves one-to-one communication.  It involves good initial contact protocol and personalized communication.  It involves relevance.  It involves real people with common purpose or common interests who perceive the mutual benefit of remaining in contact. Real networking asks “What can I do for you?” before even considering asking “What can you do for me?”  Real networking expects reciprocity, so the “What can you do for me?” will take care of itself for a protocol driven networker.   Real networking begins and continues with the specific intent of building Guanxi.

There is no Networking 2.0

The important thing to know about the real world of networking is that it’s alive, doing fine and unlikely to be replaced any time soon.  Professional networking protocol is likely to hang in there for a while too, right along with table manners and YIELD signs.

Even if social networking becomes the unwitting facilitator of  a “Connectivity 2.0″ in which poor connection protocol becomes prevalent, the essense of professional networking hasn’t changed.  Social networking  sites are powerful tools that provide the means for expanded connectivity.  Connectivity is a gateway to expanding your real networking efforts.  Done well, social networking can enhance your networking efforts and result in meaningful and beneficial relationships.

If your purpose is professional networking consider this the next time you invite someone to with connect with you on LinkedIn or to become your “Friend” on Facebook: Say “Hi” or “Hello” or otherwise greet everyone you communicate with.   Introduce yourself if you’re not known to the person.  Provide your contact information, even if you’re communicating with somebody that should already have it.  Tell them why you think a connection or relationship between you may be valuable.  Ask what you can do to help them before you mention what you want.  Invite a conversation or a meeting.  Use words like “please” and “thank you”.  Get the relationship thing going.  Put yourself out there a little bit.

If you’re struggling to understand how networking has changed, be assured it hasn’t.  Not really.  Web 2.o/Social Networking is not Networking 2.0.  There is no Networking 2.o.   Real professional networking has always been, and will always be, about establishing and increasing your business capital.  That’s Guanxi.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jennifer April 27, 2009 at 3:05 am

The 3 websites where job seekers got the best results (from about.com) are -

http://www.linkedin.com (networking for professionals)
http://www.indeed.com (aggregated listings)
http://www.realmatch.com (matches you to the perfect jobs)

For those looking for work, good luck!

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