Ask people for career advice, and one topic is bound to pop up again and again. They’ll wax eloquent about the benefits of networking, and advise you to network too. And they’re very right!
Here’s the thing though. Most people hate networking. Building and maintaining a network seems like a full-time job to most people – a highly avoidable chore!
But there’s good news. There is another way to network than the conventional methods. And it doesn’t feel like a chore or a full-time job. In fact, most people would agree that it feels pretty good.
Take the lesson to discover how to enjoy building your network.
Please study the video carefully and attempt the quiz question located at the bottom of the page, at the end of the lesson.
“You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want”.
– Zig Ziglar, American author, salesman, and motivational speaker.
A few years ago there was an episode of Ugly Betty (An American comedy series) in which the lead character who, despite her lack of style, lands a job at a prestigious fashion magazine. She is compelled to go out and make connections. She absolutely detests doing it. It feels phony for her to stroll around a bar and have trivial, brief conversations concluding in a quick exchange of business cards.
And that is phony.
Simply because there was no real connection, no breakthroughs occurred. It just came across as a futile exercise in self-promotion, leaving everyone feeling sleazy.
Truth be told there are a whole lot of people who feel that way about networking – be it sales professionals, managers or entrepreneurs.
They know that they need to reach out, but the way they’ve been taught just feels wrong. There are others who belong to the school of thought that you have be selfish and look out for yourself in order to network and make the right connections with influential people.
Networking is also often thought of as connecting to people on LinkedIn, collecting business cards at networking events, or following the right people on Twitter. Well, it is nice to connect to people on LinkedIn or meet someone new at a business event, but often that’s where the relationship would begin and end. You might see the person occasionally or message them once in a while on LinkedIn, but that’s it. It is difficult to get any tangible results from this approach.
So what then does Networking entail?
Building a robust professional network is an important part of having a successful career. Being well-acquainted with key professionals in your industry makes a lot of things easier, from learning new skills to promoting your product or service.
But the fact is any relationship requires effort. Building a strong business network is no different. Networking is about relationship building and not about collecting the maximum number of visiting cards. It is not who you know that matters, it is who knows you that does.
Take the case of Nishant Suri
Nishant, a young management professional was well known and respected in the trade. He knew everyone, and everyone knew him. Everyone admired the manner in which he effectively built his personal brand, in a short span of time.
His trump card became clear pretty quickly. He was quick to offer help and assistance to everyone, including people he’d just met and colleagues he’d known for years. If you ran into him at a cocktail party and told him you’d recently started a company, he’d ask if you needed a banker, accountant, insurance agent, or lawyer, and if you did, he’d actually follow up the next day and make the connection.
By offering assistance and making connections, he ingratiated himself to both the person in need of assistance and the person he connected them with. By doing this on an ongoing basis, he continuously strengthened his existing network and grew the size and reach of his total network.
Now, why did he do all of this when it wasn’t his job? Did he just really like to do favors for strangers? Well, the primary reason is- First You Give (Serve), Then You Get
Nishant was happy to be of help, but when he needed help there were hundreds of people in his network that were only too happy to help him.
This is the essence of networking-serving others.
Although it’s good for your network to know about your professional successes and promotions, you don’t want to gain a reputation as a braggart. Simply “informing the other person about what you have been up to in a way that provides information he or she does not have works just fine. If you have had positive relationship with someone in the past and you’re confident they think you are a good person, you don’t need to go on a long-standing promotional campaign. Just stay in touch and express interest in his/ her life. That’ll keep a positive memory alive.
Regroup from time to time
Every six months or so, it pays to do an “audit” of your professional ties. “You need to look at your list of contacts and ask, is it still accurate? Who should I add? Who is no longer quite as relevant?” “Continuously mix old and new when possible” — that is, introduce people you’ve just met to others in your network, which gives you an an opportunity to learn more about both of them. “This opens up relationships that may have stagnated
Serve your network selflessly, with integrity and not with an ulterior motive of exploiting it. Do well for goodness sake, not only to expect returns. Be a giver at work, strive to be generous in sharing your time, energy, knowledge, skills ideas and connections with other people, so that they can benefit from them
For a rookie who hopes to hit the ground running in a new organization, you must first cultivate allies — a network of people who can provide the information, resource, and support needed to succeed.
No one wishes to build a reputation as the person who’s always name-dropping and speaking in the first person. But it pays to be known as someone who helps people.
Remember ‘Networking is the number one unwritten rule of success in business’.
At the threshold of a new career if you are looking to increasing the effectiveness of your professional social network just the way Nishant Suri did, stop worrying about how others can help you and start thinking about how you can help them.
Stop thinking about who they can connect you with, and start thinking about who you can connect them with. Stop just collecting business cards and connecting with people on LinkedIn, and start focusing on building meaningful relationships by first serving others.
Help others succeed; and soon you will see that your network will help you succeed, in return. This is not only the most pragmatic way to network but also the most fulfilling way to live your life and career.