Networking: Are You Doing It Wrong?

By Morag Barrett on February 25, 2013

Posted by Morag Barrett | February 25, 2013Networking: Are You Doing It Wrong?Let me start by saying that, like many of you, I have never been the biggest fan of networking. As much as I enjoy attending events and meeting new people, I really struggle with small talk, especially with strangers, I worry that I have nothing interesting to share and that I am not an expert in all this US stuff. (Being British you can ask me about the “offside rule” and I will take a stab at it, ask me about the latest American Football game and I am a little more hesitant.)To date I have only met one person who actually says he enjoys what most of us consider an arduous task. Despite how you may feel about networking, it is known it to be a vital part of business, whether managing your own career and network, or seeking the next contract and opportunity.Which is what brings me here today blogging about networking. I recently had a conversation with a colleague who was complaining that he couldn’t get networking to actually work for him. He just couldn’t seem to create any kind of movement or results. I asked him some basic questions to determine his networking strategy and discovered plain and simply that he was doing it wrong.“How can I help you?”This should be the question on the forefront of your mind whenever you enter into any kind of networking conversation. Unfortunately, most enter with the mindset of, “What can you do for me?” This approach will likely get you nowhere-as it has my friend. When you begin a conversation with the goal of helping the other person you make yourself a resource and someone with perceived added value. People within organizations are approached all day long by people wanting something from them but ask what you can do for them and they will remember you. This refreshing and pragmatic approach to networking will change your every interaction and create solution-focused topics in which you will be able to sell yourself as the expert and the answer to their problems. Doesn’t that sound like some one you would want to know? Someone you would ask for help? Someone you would want to help?Everybody MattersWhen we network, we tend to stay within our small (and comfortable) circles. We stick to the people in our own industry or our own organization as though they are the only ones who matter.  When I am speaking at conferences and events I will often ask people to raise their hands if they are sitting next to someone they already know. Unsurprisingly most hands go up. We hunt in packs, we stay together, however this misses the one key point for attending the conference in the first place – making new connections!This limiting mindset of staying with those you already know will hold you back from amazing opportunities. The truth is, you don’t know where the next big lead may come from. In fact, it’s likely that it will come from a place where you least expect it-especially if you are networking from the frame of helping other people. A good friend of mine, based in Singapore, attended a conference in Washington DC.  She had the courage to network, and as a result received a phone call from one of the executives she met offering her a role in Austria. She wasn’t looking to make a change and she wasn’t aware of the organization that approached her so she was unlikely to have come across them other than through this chance encounter. The opportunity came to her and she ended up moving to Austria and is highly successful!The learning:When you are operating from a strategy of helping other people and connecting with everyone regardless of what they do, you will begin to establish yourself as a “mover and a shaker” in the networking community. You will also create relationships and that is what networking is about: relationships. You won’t be seen as someone pillaging network events looking for work, but rather as someone with something to offer everyone and as someone you can trust. People will remember your name because you did it differently. They will reach out to you because you offered to help. You will be able to establish yourself as a networking leader and perhaps, networking may even feel like less of a chore. This strategy of collaboration and communication will affect every facet of your business.Ask yourself, “What is my networking strategy? Am I doing it wrong?” and more importantly, “What can I do to help others?” Photo courtesy of StockFreeImages.comRelated ArticlesTags »communicationCultivating Winning RelationshipsWorking with difficult people Share
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