Networking will always be part of business, so how can we maximize its effectiveness?
Networking is part of business. It always has been and always will be. Networking is still considered fundamental when it comes to advancing careers and growing business. But what values should inform the way we do it?
You’ve surely had the experience of a person who seems to be interacting with you simply because they want something. Most of us know the experience of making a new connection on a social network only to immediately receive an automated sales pitch. These are tactics of a mindset of “taking,” and sadly, a lot of people network this way.
But I propose you create a “generosity network” — a network with the mindset of giving, based on the idea that we should give to everyone we meet- without expectation.
Here are three great reasons to create a generosity network.
1Giving is good
Giving is the right thing to do. You are a unique human being with a unique life and work experiences. So is the person you’re communicating with. As you interact, first listen to the other person. Ask probing questions regarding the topic they’re speaking about. If you have some expertise about a problem they have, ask if you can offer advice. Give them some of your expertise. If you don’t have expertise to give, offer the most important thing you can give to anyone: your time and attention. These are invaluable gifts that are not often given, especially in a business context.
Rather than building a relationship with your new contact to just acquire something, continually give them your time and attention because it’s the right thing to do.
2The benefits come back to you
Time and attention are gifts people seldom receive from others, particularly in business. People often seek to get someone’s time and attention, but rarely does someone offer these without the expectation of something in return. If you network with the mindset of giving, you will be noticed, because no one else does it.
Granted, this isn’t easy. And some people reading this will see it as a tactic. They will say to themselves “l’ll get noticed if I give,” so they’ll try to give in a way that is actually completely self-serving. But their intent is not there — they’re primarily concerned with taking, not giving.
But people know when they’re being used. We must change our attitude to approach others with true generosity. When we are charitable out of genuine generosity, we will be perceived well. Of course, we should never do it for this reason, but it’s good to know that when we are truly generous with others, we are indirectly being generous with ourselves, because it often comes back to us.
3Network is for the long-term
I propose that networking ought to be a long-term process of building a legacy of charity.
Networking is not a short-term game of either building a greater number of “contacts” or getting to speak to an influential person in your industry. If you’re known long-term as someone who is generous, your business will be successful. If you are generous, people remember you.
If your intent is to take, you’ll be discovered sooner or later. If you give while interacting with others at a networking event, you may not get anything that day, but you may have made an impression on someone. If you continue to give, that connection may contact you ten years down the road and offer you an opportunity. Some contacts, however, will never reach out to you. Give anyway. This is true networking. It’s a long-term endeavor. Building a network of generosity, trust, and goodness is the foundation of good business.
Make a resolution
Have you made a resolution for your work or business this year? Practice seeing the person in front of you as a unique individual, created in God’s image and likeness. Ask for the grace to continue to develop the habit of giving yourself in your professional life. This is a generosity network.