When most people start networking, they tend to make the mistake of centering the relationship around themselves. Their needs, their resolution to get a job, their wants. But what about the individual on the other side of this networking relationship? Unless they are a family member or very close friend, they don’t have an obligation to help you. And now you are asking them to make sacrifices for you, a stranger that isn’t even offering something in return!
Instead, networking is about understanding what you can provide for the other person. When you shift the focus like this, networking becomes much less awkward and much more beneficial for the both of you! Consider, for example, approaching a company’s HR generalist that you’ve been introduced to and asking to meet with her about what jobs are currently available that you could apply for. Sounds like this meeting is all about you. On the flip side, instead consider asking to meet to better understand what the company’s goals for the year are and which departments need the most improvement. Educate yourself before-hand so that you will be able to not only offer yourself as an employee, but also offer additional business strategies that could further these goals. When you make the focus about the company, you instantly become a much more appealing professional and business networking partner. Now, you have something to offer and are giving your networking partner a reason to want to meet with you.
Also, don’t forget about how important it is to extend networking favors to professional contacts and acquaintances. Offer to make introductions for them or send them an article about a new webinar that might be of value for their industry or company. After all, the more favors you do for someone else, the more favors they will be likely to grant to you in return. Again, this goes back to one of the core principles of networking: it’s not about you. If you can create a scenario in which networking is about the other person or the company, you’ll find yourself more easily and successfully connecting with other professionals. Yes, this takes more work and research on your half, but the results will make it worth your while.
Note: Thank you to Alan Hill for providing the core ideas and inspiration for this blog post.