girl climbing wall

If you give to your network, it will give back to you.

So how is your network serving you?

To me, networking is a mindset. A mindset towards building supportive and cooperative relationships that you support and in turn supports you.

What is the image that comes to mind when I say “Networking meeting”?

A large room filled with individuals all attempting to meet other people to sell or get something from them? Everyone is in the get mode.

Not an uncommon image that is validated from experience.

Here is a typical description I hear. “I went to this meeting and everyone I talked to was pushing something on me, their card, their product, or a sales pitch. Few folks listened and I sensed everyone there was just looking to get something.”

What would be the impact if you flipped the narrative on networking. Suppose you went in with an approach of giving, listening, and contributing to the network. Sound interesting or possible? I found it is possible and is simply a matter of your mindset.

My networking now is built on three principles:

  • What can I give?
  • How to be a regular and a regular contributor?
  • Focus on the few.

Let’s break each of them down a little more.

What can I give? The most important pillar of my mindset. I have switched to seeing how I can assist anyone I meet.

When I meet someone, I take the time to understand what that person does and am in the listen mode. In that mode, I ask a lot questions and have realized, I usually have a connection or other information that is helpful to that individual.

The top goal is to provide something of value to the individual. You may surprise yourself how many times you assist an individual.

Be a regular and contribute regularly. This principle is focused on being an integral member to a supportive community and contributing to it. Frequency, engagement, and authenticity allow you to be known, not just recognized. This familiarity eases participation and builds mutual understanding between participants.

The type of group will dictate your ability to contribute. Many networking groups have guest speakers, sponsor opportunities, or openings to organize or host events. I am not recommending making your networking group a time sink. Consider how you can improve the group. For several groups, I belong to I have contributed by presenting, recommending presenters, and inviting new members to the group. All easy and appreciated.

Focus on the few. Ever attend an event where you talked to so many folks you questioned the value of attending. I have found taking the time to focus on making only several connections can be productive.

I attended a large networking event that included speed networking. A 45-minute session with individuals seated at a table of 8. Each individual had 90 seconds to make an introduction pitch and hand out their cards. After 15 minutes we switched tables and did it again for a total of three cycles.

My result was leaving with a stack of business cards and little memory of anyone I met. Not doing that again.

Putting it all together. My purpose in networking is to make meaningful long term mutually beneficial connections. For me, that correlates to regularly contributing to a community where I connect with and assist individuals and am known as a regular member. Kind of like the Cheers theme song “Where everyone knows your name.”

Does this help my business and brand? Absolutely. Interestingly, not from direct connections within the network. Most often referrals come from connections to my connections. My network knows me, my capabilities, and they trust me. Therefore, they send individuals to me that I can assist.

If you give to your network, it will give back to you.