“Networking” includes the word “Work” for a reason
Is there anything I could help you with?

You probably despise networking. You think of networking as wasting time and you don’t like to go to events with no direct outcome. Are you appalled by “coffee meetings” with people who never plan to support you but happily take your free advice? Know that feeling?

You probably heard me say this before: For me, time has an immense value and since I started my business I’ve come to the conclusion that I have three major priorities: 1) My health, 2) My time and 3) My support group (including my family and partner). Without these you cannot run a successful company of one.

In order to use my time effectively and to the best possible outcome, I am constantly reviewing my “networking” strategy and have become very strategic about building connections in a way that suits me but also generates business. At the same time with recent health challenges, working from home and restrictions on events I had to think of other ways to “network the network”. The term “working the net” already indicates that there is work involved in building and maintaining mutually beneficial business relationships. AND while this comes natural to expats and other people from more relationship-based cultures, it requires energy for people from strictly task-based cultures.

The secret to making peace with “networking” as I often explain in my talks and workshops such as “#Networking4Nerds” is to treat your business relationships similar to other friendships and to be a giver.

Here are my five recipes for working your net:

1) Connect those who would not meet

A big benefit of being a networking queen or king is that you can organize connections. 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 “Professional 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. I also benefit from introductions so I try to keep the karma of connections spinning. 

2) Accept that Relationships 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. 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. Be bold and bring in your unique perspective to the world.

4) Help others and increase 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. It could be a small weekly challenge such as meeting a person you never met for a coffee. You could also offer to connect someone to someone else because you know they share a theme, hobby or interest.

These connections 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.

 

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