Have you ever been to a networking event that was awkward, frustrating and nothing more than a business card exchange?
In his book MANHATTAN SOCIETY: The Art & Spirituality of Networking, Chris London says “Networking with integrity creates a greater willingness of all parties to be part of a human conduit to serve as energy and resource to one another. Sometimes you will give more than you receive and sometimes you will get back more than you give. It’s not about keeping score.” Networking is about giving – first.
To make the most of networking events, approach them like you would a cocktail party. Go with the intention of being social and making friends. In her book How to Work a Room (Quill, 2000) Susan Roane uses something she calls the Ro Ane Mingling Mantra: “Small talk, small talk, small talk. Even if I have an agenda, nobody gives a flying fig about it. People care about having a connected conversation … the focus of networking is connections with people—not what they can buy from us.”
Once you meet people you like, think of ways to help them. This does two things; identifies you as a person who adds value and gives you instant credibility, especially if you don’t know the contact well. Here are five ways to help your contacts:
1. If the contact is a vendor, and you know someone who can use their services, give them an introduction.
2. Send your contacts journal articles you think they would find useful.
3. If you receive free tickets to concerts, conventions or sporting events, instead of using them yourself, offer them to a contact.
4. Go the extra mile. I once volunteered to set up a partner’s home computer. He eventually left the company, but we stayed in touch. When I let him know I needed a new position he made a phone call on my behalf that resulted in an interview.
5. Ask what your contacts biggest challenge is. Then do a little research on the topic and send them the results.
Networking by giving changes the dynamic of almost all future interactions. Laid off recently, I called everyone I knew to let them know I was in need of a new position. The response was nearly one hundred percent positive and has netted me three interviews so far!
Inventory who you know, make a consistent effort to meet new people and don’t forget to find ways to help them. In the words of original success author Robert Collier: You have to sow before you can reap. You have to give before you can get. Network now!
Helena Bouchez is a writer, musician, artist, teacher and former advertising agency associate technology director who loves networking.
She has a B.A. in Art from Wayne State University and a Certificate in Business Administration from University of Illinois Chicago Center for Entrepreneurship, is nearly finished with her first novel tentatively titled, Till you Make It, and enjoys playing bass guitar in all three of her bands. Helenabouchez.com