Lots of people tell me they don’t like networking. They say it feels fake and disingenuous. If it does, you’re doing it wrong. Networking is nothing more or less than building relationships. A good networker is a bridge builder, someone who makes connections for others without expecting anything in return.
This week I met with two clients for appointments, and I had coincidentally connected them for an informational interview. The interview seeker was energized and excited about the experience, and the mentor was happy and grateful that I had given them an opportunity to “pay back” the help I had given them. As Guy Kawasaki writes in Enchantment, when you help someone out, give them the opportunity to repay the favour. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
Listen – Whether you are talking with a co-worker you see every day, your neighbor, friend, brother… be in the moment and actually listen to what they are saying. In a study of Harvard Business Review subscribers, communication was the number one factor in determining promotion potential, and listening is definitely the better part of communication. To be an engaged listener, let the speaker finish their thoughts before you jump in, and don’t sit there planning what you’ll say in response while they are talking. It means you really aren’t listening at all. Pay attention to how they deliver their message, and when someone uses a phrase like “my point is” you should make a note because they are reinforcing the main idea that you’ll want to remember.
Offer to help – So you might not be able to fix global warming, or world hunger, but if you know a guy who knows a guy… then try sharing that with your contact. To be a good networker you don’t have to be able to do everything, you just need to connect the people, resources or businesses who need each other. Imagine someone tells you that they are looking to buy a house. You likely don’t have a spare one just hanging around but you might know a real estate agent or have read an article about the housing market in your area. Offer to make the introduction or share the info. It really is as simple as that.
Give thanks – If you’re just starting to build your network, likely you’re in the position of asking for favours, introductions, referrals… that you can’t immediately repay. That’s okay, and it’s generally the same position we all found ourselves in at the beginning, so not to worry. You might not initially be able to make connections, but there are ways to repay the favour. Does your contact have a blog? Share or promote their site on Twitter or LinkedIn. Write them a recommendation for their LinkedIn profile if you can comment on what they do. Don’t forget about the real world, either. If you encounter people or resources that would be a great fit with your contact, offer to introduce them or share the information. Still stumped? Try sending a thank you card. You’d be surprised how far showing your appreciation can go in building the relationship.
Questions and comments are always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.