Networking as an Act of Service
How am I such a willing networker? I see the process differently than most people. Rather than entering an event trying to figure out how to get the most I can out of the people in the room, I take the opposite approach. I try to see how much I can give. I consider attending networking events my volunteer or “community service” time each month. Why? Here are my five reasons:
1) You gotta give to get. (It's called karma people.)
2) You're creating opportunities to reinforce your personal brand.
3) It will make your efforts feel like a great use of your time as opposed to a waste.
4) “You can make more friends in two months by becoming really interested in other people, than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie
5) You might get the results you want by offering help to the husband or partner of the elusive business owner you've been cold calling since last spring rather than continuing to call and call.
People Need Your Help
More often than not, the majority of the people at a networking event are there because they need help with something. Otherwise, they'd probably be home watching “Dancing with the Stars” or attending their kid's soccer game.
The key is to make it easy for people to ask for help. Don’t force them to launch into a canned or fake-sounding elevator pitch. Why do people bother attending mixers, socials or networking event if they're not going to offer whatever help they can to the people they meet? What is the point of attending then? To be seen? To look for a date?
Pay It Forward
As usual, I want to evangelize the pay it forward approach to networking, and get more people to start thinking about attending networking events as a form of giving back to their communities. It's something that can be done a few times a quarter, month, week, or whatever your lifestyle allows.
For example, my lifestyle right now doesn't allow me to donate time at the senior center or with a local Girl Scout troop, but my business requires me to do a certain amount of networking each month. By focusing each conversation on "How can I help you right now?" it becomes an act of service. This perspective not only helps the other person (just asking and listening supports people), it also helps my karma, which always feels good.
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Photo credit: (flickr/Club KLM)