The truth is, I hate networking. Or at least traditional networking. And I would be willing to bet you do too. Making myself go to professional events just to shake hands and trade business cards is not how I would like to spend an evening. I believe that if we’re being honest, everyone is a bit creeped out by these events; forced interactions and fully transactional relationships just aren’t natural. However, this is not an excuse to hide in your office and never speak to anyone again!
The enemy of leadership is isolation. People want authenticity, they want to be understood, and they don’t want to talk to someone who only wants something from them. Build your relationship authentically with these tips:
Grow Genuine Connections
The key to building a powerful network is to grow genuine connections. Try thinking of your contacts more like friends than professional acquaintances, even though the truth is somewhere in between. Friendships are reciprocal, not transactional, and they usually begin with a common interest. For example, in the past, I have met more future business partners than you would expect at my daughter’s volleyball games. You can start by striking up conversations without necessarily wanting to get anything out of the interaction. Allow the business talk to follow naturally. Sometimes nothing will come of these conversations, but other times you will add a valuable contact to your network, or even a real friend.
Seek to Serve Others First
Think about the value you can give to someone rather than what you can take from them. If somebody gets the sense you’re only speaking with them because you want something, they are going to shut down. Plus, people are more willing to help those who help them. Think about who can you connect them with next. Find out their dreams and ask yourself how can you help them get there. If you extend a helping hand, one will more than likely be there for you when you need it.
Take Care of Your Network
You need your network to work for you for the long term. If you haven’t spoken to someone in years, don’t expect them to remember who you are when you call! Make sure you remain in contact. Reach out every so often and make it personal. Forward an article you know they will like. Send your contacts birthday cards and thank-you notes to show you care.
No matter whom you talk to, if you are your authentic self and find opportunities to serve others, I guarantee you will get much more out of your networking than you ever have filling your Rolodex, adding contacts in Outlook, or adding strangers on LinkedIn.