Networking Can Be Learned, Once You Dump All Your Bad Habits
by Ken Goldstein
Fourth in a Series of Ten
Networking is of the most misunderstood and underappreciated activities in which we partake. We are taught to begin networking as early as we can, in high school and college, to build our network of contacts so we know important people downstream who can help us improve all our metrics — financial results, recruitment, sales leads, and career development, just to name a few. Yet even though we know we are supposed to network, do we have a clue what effective networking is? How do we calculate an ROI on time spent, and oh how I despise this word, schmoozing?
Let’s start with the basics — schmoozing is not networking. Idle chit chat at industry cocktail parties is not going to help you achieve a record quarter or land the gig of a lifetime. You can point to examples where it worked, but you can also point to people who win the lottery. In my experience, with the exception of sales people, no one really likes schmoozing — it’s weird, it’s thin, it’s shallow, and it’s uncomfortable. To be clear, the best sales people I know only pretend to schmooze, what they are really doing in these circles is selling, because professional sales people are selling all the time. So for everyone who is not in sales, let’s toss out schmoozing as a way to move forward. If you have that kind of time on your hands, spend it with family and friends, you’ll have a much better and more honest day or evening.
Networking is the single best chance we have to make an impression on someone, an impression that lasts, possibly for the rest of the time you are on the planet. What better way is there for you to make a positive impression, to get someone to remember you and care about you and think about taking your call? Help them. Help them any way you can. Answer their email, return their call, listen to their problem or concern, and if you have something relevant to share, share it. You want to know what we really appreciate in life and business? Any simple act of kindness or respect. Do it, do it often, trade your schmoozing time for helping time. Do it now, it doesn’t matter if you are at the top or bottom of your game, if you are busy or bored. Don’t discriminate, you are building a base of support and trust, you have no clue whatsoever where anyone around you will be in several years time. They may be CEO, they may be down and out, they matter equally; in another year’s time, the tables can turn very quickly.
So once you help someone, it’s like The Godfather, right? They owe you a favor? Fuggedaboutit. You give and offer to give because it’s the right thing to do. You do it selflessly and without expectation. You do it because it feels good and right to you. You do not keep score. If you network correctly, you forget every act you ever did to help someone so you never make the awful mistake of reminding them. Let them remember. They will.
Successful networking is like successful investing, it’s long term results that matter. I can’t tell you how immensely consistent a theme this has been in my own life. My contacts list is something I cherish, I can call any one of the people I consider contacts and they will get back to me promptly. Why, because they think I have something for them? No, because we have a human connection. With that human connection comes access and trust. Do not mistake this for friendship, it might be friendship, but that is rare. It is a covenant of interchange, where connection and productivity are rooted in history.
You want history? Start now. Help someone today, then again tomorrow. You will be shocked at just how powerful your network grows in the years to come, and how satisfied you feel to be part of an endlessly winning circle.