Networking gets a bad rap. Most people think of networking as an event. You have been there before. Cocktail weenies and cheddar cheese cubes are on the buffet. The fish bowl in front is full of business cards for a door prize. Name tags are everywhere you look. Vaguely you remember someone saying that your name tag goes on one side or the other.
Guess what? It really does not matter. If you are someone that people want to remember then your name tag could be on your back. Likewise, if you are forgettable or worse, someone people wish they could forget, then your name tag’s location will not help your cause.
In the coming months I will be talking about getting connected and staying connected. Some people call this phenomenon networking. Before we talk about what it is, let’s look at what it isn’t.
Networking is not about increasing your sales.
Networking is not about finding a new job.
Networking is not about improving your love life.
Networking is not about a free meal.
Networking is about your relationships with others. Period. Networking is the people you know. It is about meeting people, not prospects or future raving fans. And when you meet them, one day you may sell them something or you may buy something from them, they may give you a job, or even marry you. But at first it is a question of what you can do for them.
Networks exist because we do need each other. In an interdependent world one thing you can count on is that if you can be an offer of value, others will become obligated to you. Human beings just work that way, although not all humans get this concept on the same level. Some people get their help solely by making transactions. But living in a world of transaction is very linear and expensive. If I pay a guy to do my taxes, my taxes are done. Once I write a check, we are square. No surprises occur. Nothing larger than life can happen.
Networking is about doing someone’s taxes and not accepting a check. Then finding something else you can do for them. And if you don’t know how to do someone’s taxes, maybe your offer can be even more valuable. From this beginning, non-linear growth in your career and wealth can occur. But finding what to give can be tricky.
So what do you have to offer? The good news is that I do not know. You actually have to figure it out on your own and give others something that fits with who you are. This gift is your own “secret sauce”. Luckily, many people find it easier to be themselves when taking care of others than they do trying to follow a formula. If you copy other people’s ideas, you risk that your offers will be seen as common. The best offers are those that are scarce.
When in doubt, sometimes your most significant offer to another is willingness. Especially when networking with those more seasoned or further along than you, your offer of willingness to help can open doors. Of course, you must follow up this willingness with actual willingness.
Here is the conundrum. In a world where the number is never done and bosses or stockholders are breathing down your neck, when do you find time to network? You cannot find it, you must schedule it. As a first hint, I challenge you to find 5% of your week, every week, just to connect. You already know who is falling out of your network. You also know those that you really need to retain. Call them, tell them you care, send them a card, and reconnect. The worst time to reconnect is always when you need something. Ever get a call from a long lost collegue with a resume in his hand? Don’t be that person.
For more about Gary Davis: www.NetworkingInTheSouth.com