While I don’t think that universally applies to all situations (after all, a shy introverted medical school graduate is more qualified to be a doctor than an extroverted, well-connected MBA), it can be very important in a lot of situations. Ultimately, it can make the difference between successfully reaching a goal or coming up short in many other cases.
I’m not talking about schmoozing, or being a fake. We all know those types! I simply chuckle at such characters, and have seen some attempts to “network” that were so blatantly disingenuous that they became funny stories to tell others. Perhaps that’s for another post 🙂
But real, genuine networking matters.
Let’s consider an example. If you interviewed a number of candidates for a job, and were down to two finalists that were well qualified, who would you go with? If one candidate was friends with someone you know, who could vouch for the person, it would be an edge over the other equally qualified you have no direct or indirect connection to. After all, some of your risk might be mitigated by a reference from someone you know.
In many other cases, jobs aren’t even actively advertised. Or, in non-corporate situations, many business opportunities simply aren’t posted anywhere. Who you know matters, in order to even have a chance in many situations.
Okay, so we can see that networking matters. But what are some tips for success?
Well, many of us probably have our own tips. Personally, going through job search mode of late, I’ve improved upon my previous skill level, and would like to think I’ve evolved in this regard. Many years ago I simply had very little interest in investing time in this area, as I thought day-to-day life was busy enough. But the reality is that it should be a part of everyone’s career or business, and time could even be set aside for it on a regular basis.
So here is one big networking tip that I’ll share, from personal experience. Others may say differently, but this is what I have learned. Maybe I’ll start up some more discussion on this in a future post, but we’ll start with this one here
Be a Giver When Networking
One of my friends once told me that networking is a “waste of time” in his opinion, since he thought it was insincere. He expressed the belief that nobody is going to be proactively trying to help you – or sincerely respond to requests for help – if there is nothing in it for them.
Well, I think a good way to alleviate those concerned is to have a giving spirt when networking. Actually, having that approach all the time, not just when you need something, is the way to go.
Let’s say that someone you know had been generous to you on multiple occasions over the years, proactively helping you with various things. It might be introducing you to someone, sharing information with you, or one of many other giving actions. Then, after adding value to your endeavors for a while, let’s say that this person asked you for a small favor.
Wouldn’t you be much more inclined to help this person? Maybe enthusiastically, too?
This 4 step process can be one way to frame it up:
- Help (or refer, buy, etc.)
If you’re trusted by virtue of your delivering real value in a genuine way, you’re in better position to have positives come your way.
I’m not saying we ought to be giving strictly just to get something back in the future. Or, be nice and build credit just to collect later. Rather, it seems like being giving is just a good way to be.
Further, doing it without consciously thinking about specific return on invested favors (did we just coin a new metric here?) is easier all around for everyone involved
Not all of this came naturally to me. It’s an approach I’ve had to develop, but I can see it’s making a positive difference!
Now, I’m interested in your thoughts on this topic.
Do you actively network for your career, business, or general efforts to earn income?
What is your top networking tip?
Do you also believe that proactively giving is a good use of time? I’m of course open to hearing different points of view, so please feel free to share.