The Art of Giving: the Key to Effective Networking
With Thanksgiving and all the other holidays approaching, I though it would be an appropriate time to talk about a central tenant of effective networking – the “Art of Giving.”
An acquaintance of mine who is currently “in transition” (don’t you just love that euphemism!) recently called me to get together for coffee. Our meeting consisted mostly of him sharing the trials, tribulations and frustrations of his job search with me, him showing me his résumé for a critique, and him asking me for advice on who he should talk to, how to reach them, and how to answer certain application and interview questions. When the meeting ended, I had the distinct impression that it had been a one-way conversation … and when he asked if he could keep in touch, I politely said “sure” but privately thought “this guy just doesn’t get it!” The missing element in his approach to me was any attempt to give back or even ask if there was anything he could do for me. He was so wrapped up with his own problems and challenges that he made the meeting entirely about himself.
Now don’t get me wrong … I enjoy advising and counseling job-seekers, and I derive a great deal of satisfaction from helping others. However, if he thought that our meeting was supposed to establish a mutual networking “connection,” this guy totally missed the boat. He took, but did not give. Networking needs to be a 2-way exchange where both parties feel they are benefiting from the relationship. Otherwise, there’s a danger that one person will simply feel that they are being used.
Make your meetings about the other person. This principle of focusing on giving as much as receiving doesn’t just apply to job-seeking. It crosses over into consultative sales calls, prospecting for leads, business networking, and almost every imaginable social and interpersonal relationship. It’s important to ask “How can I help you?” Explore the other person’s needs, challenges, or issues of importance. Look for ways to help solve their problems. Above all, be a good listener. Then extend yourself and give!
So, how can a job-seeker help an employed person or a decision-maker they are meeting / networking with? The simple act of asking “Is there anything I can do for you, or anyone I can introduce you to?” is a great way to start. Offer to introduce the other person to contacts in your network that are appropriate to their position. Offer to write the person a LinkedIn recommendation. Ask if there any challenges they are facing that you might be able to help with. Offer to lend your specific expertise in any way you can. It may turn out that you actually can’t help them … but as it is often said regarding gift-giving, it’s the thought that counts!
Following up with your contacts through regular emails or phone calls is a critical part of effective networking – but again, remember to make those follow-ups as much about giving as taking. Don’t just remind the person that you are looking for a job and ask for their help. Follow-up with introductions you can make that might help that other person. Send them articles that might be of interest to that person based on your conversations. Send them links to websites or blogs that connect to their specific interests, needs or challenges. GIVE BACK!
In the end, the more you give, the more you’ll receive. (Sounds kind of like a Beatles lyric, eh?!) It’s really true: the people who take the time to help and give to others are the ones who are the most likely to receive the type of help, introductions, and insider tips that they are seeking, which will ultimately help them achieve their goals.