The Networking Secret
There are plenty books out there on networking. There are YouTube videos. There are courses. There are whole blogs dedicated solely to networking. It’s a huge market and a growing industry.
Sure, there are tools and tips and things you should say and things you shouldn’t say and ways to shake hands and when to hand out your business card and when to take a business card and what to do with those business cards and what to wear and how to start a conversation.
There are plenty of experts to tell you how to do this. They’ve got the moves, the tips and tricks to guarantee your success, even when you’re not even networking.
It’s true. Most of these techniques work for a lot of people. Not for everyone, but for most people. We’re all different and we have to find the ones that work for us.
I’m not going to tell you how to do any of this. For me, they all seem to be missing one fundamental piece.
The Missing Secret
The tips and tricks might focus on being more productive (organizing your business card collection or following up with your contacts) or on how to make small talk. Many of us need these tips.
Yet lots of the focus is on the short term. It’s on quickly making contact with someone and then working that contact. It’s a short term strategy all about taking.
The missing secret is authentic networking.
Your network will work for you when they know who you are, when they like who you are, when your goals can be aligned, when, along the road, there’s value for them too. This is about giving. It’s about paying it forward.
In adopting this strategy you’ll be reducing the broad pool of your network. There will be many that these other techniques would encourage you to network with. But what’s the point in having someone in your network that, in the longer term, you have little in common with and neither of you really have much interest in the other one?
Authentic networking is about being you. It’s about being an honest person, a good person. It’s about humbly allowing people to realize that.
If you have something in common with your network, and you might be surprised what that could be, you’re more likely to be engaging with them, and them with you. They’re more likely to like you and you like them. The ideas you share are more likely to resonate.
And why would your network want to help you out anyway? Why should they offer you anything? So many of these networking books and videos focus on what you can get out of networking and how to get as much as you can from it.
Maybe this is backwards. Maybe it’s about what you can give, what you can invest. Maybe you need to give before you can receive. Maybe the more you give the more you can receive.
If you’re lacking a particular skill or attribute that you can contribute directly to someone in your network then you need to think broader. Perhaps the fact that you’ve done some voluntary work for charity is enough to show you’re giving or maybe you know something about astrology and the son of the person you’re talking to also has an interest. There are thousands of ways that connections can be created, you just need to delve deep enough and find the value.
Add the value first. Add it unequivocally and without any expectation of it being returned – that’s when the value will be completely authentic.
You’ll be surprised that the favor, one day, will be returned. Perhaps when you least expect it.
Main photo by thinkpanama.