Filed under: Networking/Social Media
Networking knowledge is being beaten to death these days. Everyone has an opinion, everyone wants to get better at it, and it seems like everyone has some product or training seminar they want to sell you on how to get buh-zillions of leads from networking. There are the creepy networkers (you know, the guy who seriously violates the rules of personal space), the shy connectors (thanks Sacha Chua, I LOVE this definition!), the woman who knows everyone, the guy whose boss told him he HAD to attend the event, the person who walks around and leaves business cards on the tables without talking to anyone, the list goes on and on. So – how about being that person who makes connections for OTHERS? Or the person who makes time for someone who wants to learn from you?
When I was still living in Cincinnati, I was introduced to a guy who works in mobile marketing. We knew of each other through our social media networks but had never gotten a chance to meet. When I joined AT&T, I wanted to learn more about mobile marketing, so I reached out to this guy and asked if he would be willing to share some of his knowledge of mobile marketing and how it fits into the way we communicate today. Even though I know he’s a busy guy, he agreed to meet me an hour before one of our Jelly Cincy Tweetups. What was supposed to be a brief encounter ended up turning into over an hour of him sharing his passion for mobile marketing with me. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated his time. Recently a colleague of mine expressed interest in this type of work, and guess who the first person was that came to my mind? The person who took a moment out of their busy schedule to share with me.
A similar story with a fellow recruiter: we discovered a mutual love for business books. We started having phone calls on a semi-regular basis just to talk about business strategy, proper mindset for achieving success, and how it applies to our respective industries – he, PR and me, now telecom. There was no hidden agenda from this guy (if there was, I would have seen it a mile away) – all he wanted was to talk about a personal interest we discovered we both shared. When some of my colleagues who work in PR reach out to me looking for new opportunities, guess who I send them to first. He shared moments of his life with me, and as a result I will send him referrals because I appreciate that.
One of my favorite things to do is to introduce individuals who should know each other, but don’t. I know lots of you do this too – you meet someone at a gathering, learn a little about them, and at another event you meet someone else and think, “I just HAVE to introduce so-and-so to this person!” I recently had a friend move to Chicago, and I introduced him to another friend of mine who already lives there (finding out that they now live about 10 minutes from each other – bonus!). Reasons for the introduction:
- They’re both guys (a poor reason for an intro by itself)
- They’re both tall and athletic (I understand a meetup to play some hoops was arranged)
- They’re both in their mid 20s
- They’re both big time into social media
My hope is that a new friendship is developed. It’s up to them of course, but chances are these two guys may never have met otherwise. What’s the personal benefit to me? Not much really, outside of knowing that two people I like can now be friends. I kinda enjoy that.
If you go into every new situation with an agenda, you’re going to end up being disappointed a lot of the time. There are some things to remember when you’re networking that will help to make you memorable to others and often results in situations like the ones above:
- Listen. It is often said that those who are perceived as the best conversationalists are the ones who listen the most. People remember how much you pay attention when they share with you.
- Ask, and then Listen (again). Ask probing questions to learn more about someone, but then make sure you pay attention to the response. Don’t just ask a question to appear interested.
- Connect. Try to make it a goal to make a new connection for someone. If they mention they enjoy cooking, say “Oh, I know so-and-so who also works in your field who loves it too – I’d be happy to introduce you!” If they say their company is looking to hire a social media coordinator, say “I just met someone the other day who might be great for that. I’ll connect the two of you if you’d like!” People remember gestures like this with fondness and appreciation.
- Make Time. I know you’re busy – we all are. But nothing resonates more than making time to meet with someone who asks for it. Of course, you can’t do this for everyone who asks if they can “pick your brain” and you would be wise to qualify these types of requests by asking what specifically they’d like to know. But taking an hour even once a week to have coffee with someone who is new in your business or someone looking to gain some knowledge shows that you are a giver. And go into these situations with the expectation that you are going to do all of the giving.
- Respond. (I feel hypocritical even putting this in the list because I am TERRIBLE about email responses. To those who I’ve yet to reply to, please forgive me. And please email me multiple times, that does help me!) Responding to people validates the outreach. I recently began gathering information on a very ambitious article I’m writing and hope to have published in a prominent news publication. (*hint hint to anyone reading this who works at any such business!) I reached out to about 30 high profile individuals to ask for their participation in this project. Realizing that they must receive thousands of emails each day, I am eternally grateful to those who took the time to respond to me. It showed me that they read what I was doing and saw the value in the project. And they will forever have an advocate in me for their own endeavors because of the kindness they showed to me.
As the holiday season is upon us, we should remind ourselves that it truly is greater to give than to receive. For in giving with no expectation of receiving anything in return, our returns eventually become greater. Remember this when you network. Give selflessly, and you will find a lifetime of return on your investment.
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