In business, the goal of networking is to get something of value. For many, that means a new job or more business. Unfortunately, for most people, their networking strategy and tactics will never work. They launch a full frontal assault by loading up with contacts; boosting their LinkedIn connections to 500+, the number at which they quit keeping score; and hope they get noticed. Surely having all those connections will produce the expected results, right?
But what about all those people who already have a job or all the business they can handle, what do they want to get from networking? It’s simple: to get better. Specifically, get better at what they do. They network to learn and improve their knowledge, skills, and best practices.
Networking is not a goal, it’s a tool. It is the process of building and maintaining relationships that will be of value to you.
Successful people know intuitively how to develop and nurture a reliable network of colleagues who can offer them something of value that makes them better at what they do. They also know that in order to get something, they first have to give something.
A bazillion contacts alone won’t get you a job or business, that’s only a prospect list. Getting better at what you do, will. Simply knowing people is not a job qualification. You get hired based on what you have done because it implies what you are able to do.
Networking is a useful and powerful tool if your goal is to “get better.” If you have connected with the right people – and that is key to your networking success – within your reach is a vast reservoir of knowledge, skill, experience, personal recommendations, and introductions. Your objective is to access on a personal level what others have that you need. Your network has all the answers.
The question then is, how do get from others what you need? The blunt instruments of selfish pursuit – “It’s about me, not you. It’s about what I need, not what you need” – are not likely to produce the outcome you want. Try this instead, give the people in your network something they need…and expect nothing in return for it.
What Do You Know About Who You Know?
What you can offer others may not always be obvious so you must first get to know everyone with whom you have a relationship. Quality trumps quantity in networking., says behavioral expert James Clear, “Your [networking] goals should not be on the forefront of your mind. You’re trying to develop a relationship with someone, which means you should be thinking about them. It’s your job to understand the people in your network, where they are coming from, and what’s important to them.”
Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?
Once you know what people need, you can tailor how to help them get it. But again, don’t expect anything in return. Your single goal is to help other people. Again, follow Clear’s advice, “Yes, it would be nice if they helped you out as well, but networking is a two–way street. And your side of the street is all about helping others, not asking them to help you. Asking for favors should only become a possibility once you have learned more about the person and provided some value to them.”
Giving Is Its Own Reward
So what are the practical tactics of this strategy? You give and you get. The more you give the more you get. Start thinking in terms of what others need and fulfill those needs. If what you offer is of real other-directed value, your effort is more likely to be rewarded. That reward may be to open up access to the help you need. Your contribution does not always need to be at the monumental life-saving or problem-solving level; something as simple as a compliment, a thank you, a favorable comment, an introduction, or a recommendation, carries a lot of weight and will get you started. Don’t sell yourself short either. If you have knowledge and skills from learning and experience – even at the entry level – be confident, and offer to share what you know with others, both above and below your level of expertise. Frankly, if you can’t do that in your chosen career, you should consider another line of work.
From now on, your networking strategy for success is to Get Better!
Michael Nossaman is the founder of the Protective Security Council.
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