As an entrepreneur you constantly despise one topic more than anything else: Networking for the sake of networking. Time wasters. Events with no outcome. Coffee meetings with people who never plan to support you but happily take your advice. Know that feeling? It happens it seems. I try to avoid it. Since 2012 I have constantly reviewed my “networking” strategy and have become very strategic about building connections in a way that suits me but also generates business.
There will be a time in your networking life when you notice that you will only bring an extra benefit to your network when you really do work on the net or as I tend to say in talks “Network your network”.
Stop handing out your business card!
Start helping your contacts to improve their work and life.
Continue to regularly meet like-minded professionals.
1) Connecting those who normally would not meet
A big benefit of being a networking queen or king is that you can organize connections that the members of your network cannot create. Think about who would need to know whom in your network in order to move ahead one step with one of their issues. Maybe a friend needs a new job or a business contact wants a new client or needs to solve an immediate problem at hand. Risk a little discomfort. Set them up for a “blind date”. Trust your judgement and see what happens.
Over the last few years I have made several professional introductions. Mainly I helped my clients to find jobs that they would otherwise not even know of. I also benefit from introductions so I try to keep the karma of connections spinning. (I also seem to make romantic matches without intention but I guess this is post is more about meeting a business connection for a coffee than meeting the love of your life at Angie’s party.)
2) Relationships always require work
As in a good marriage you want to keep the relationship alive by making it beneficial for both parties. Once you know too many people you might just react once you are asked but even a small advice to a junior colleague might help them to move ahead in their career or move out of a job where they have stopped to learn. A lot of professionals I know have lost the ability to trust their managers and colleagues (are you surprised?). So being a mentor for a more junior professional in your industry can be really motivating for this person.
3) Share your knowledge and expertise graciously
There has never been a time where too much knowledge was hurtful. It’s also impossible to shock people with well-written report summaries or other insights you have about your industry. Start posting on LinkedIn. Tell people what you know and how you view the trends. In a worst-case scenario you get a negative comment. I once had developed this simplified method to deal with client issues and got a response like “Dumbo, this method already exists. It’s called DMAIC” or “What a bad example!”
I was offended yes but then I thought that it was actually good to know that I came up with a simplified SIX SIGMA method without going through years of training. Also, I realized that my clients might face issues in Switzerland because of their lack of friends that in other countries would be easy to solve. I also understood that because of the high salary level here it is not always easy to get the support you are used to from your home country. Having a connector like me is really important for my clients.
Most people are actually nice on LinkedIn. Risk it, be bald and bring in your unique perspective to the world.
4) Helping others increases your self-esteem
It sounds like a boy/girl-scout value but “a good deed a day keeps the shrink away”. When you help your contacts then you will feel more self-respect and wake up with a smile on your face. It always makes me so happy when a client tells me they found a job they love or that a connection was really helpful.
It’s even more fun to just support people in your network (for FREE). Give them likes, +1, endorsements, retweets and hearts when you are not paid for it. It’s a great way to give people appreciation and we all could get a bit more of that especially in the corporate world.
5) Challenge yourself and treat networking as a game
I often ask my clients to set a networking target. That includes that they must give before they take. So it could be a small weekly challenge such as meeting a person you never meet for a coffee. You could also offer to connect someone to someone else because you know they share a theme, hobby or interest. These “blind dates” really seem to bring out most amazing collaborations. You obviously want to ask permission before sharing details. You could implement a score card on your whiteboard and whenever you helped a connection you add a smiley there. Imagine how that will make YOU feel.
Let us know in the comments how you scored and why you think you made a difference this week?
BTW: Ashley, one of my connections recommended, that I read the book “Give and Take”. It actually proves scientifically that “givers” will win hearts and prosperity in the long-haul. A great read.