Hate Networking? Four simple practices to do and feel good about yourself
December 24, 2012 § 6 Comments
The “N” word has a bad reputation. Word associations I hear: “Using,” “Selling,” “Disingenuous,” “Manipulation,” “Taking.” Frankly, I don’t blame people for having this bias. I’m betting all of us have had the experience of getting the phone call or email from a former colleague or friend who’s been out of touch – and now they want a reference or a lead. They make the small talk – but you knowingly wait for the great sucking sound to commence. At a business networking conference a few years ago, the keynote speaker asked the audience to raise hands if they were there to sell something. Half raised their hands. When asked if anyone was there to buy something. No one raised a hand.
In today’s connected world, more than ever it’s who knows you, and how they know you that makes the difference in getting the next foothold on the climbing wall of your career. Your uniqueness – that thing that differentiates you from others who do what you do – is crucial and you need to care for it like you do your favorite plant. You do not want to be seen as a commodity.
You already have a network. Here are 4 simple practices you can do – with integrity to distinguish yourself. AND, as you will see, make yourself feel good in the process of nurturing any relationships you want to grow.
- Give Positive Feedback. It’s no coincidence that “feed” is part of the word. People are starved for honest, real, specific, recognition feedback. We live and work in a culture of “improvement upon our weaknesses.” Tell people that you liked what you saw or experienced. Focus on the behavior or product they produced, and how it positively impacted you and any others involved. Were you impressed by their pitch at the project update meeting? Why?
- Send Thanks You Notes. Email is great, but vary it with handwritten notes. Remember the last time you got one and how it made you feel? Can you recall a time when you shared info with someone, or gave a referral – and never heard anything afterwards? How did that make you feel? And by the way, research out of Harvard correlates your personal level happiness to the amount of appreciation you communicate to others.
- People Have Lives, Remember Things About Them. I have a client, a senior VP in sales, who keeps a card file on each of her sales people. When she goes to a regional meeting, she reminds herself to ask whether a child got into Yale (the stretch school), how their parent is recovering from surgery, or if they made the decision to buy the Audi or not. Did their husband get the job? They love her, because she shows that she cares about them by remembering things about their lives – not just her business objectives
- Reach out to others before they reach out to you – and don’t keep track! Be the one to stay in touch. Say hi and tell them you were thinking about them and wondering how they are – without asking for anything. Subscribe to BirthdayAlarm.com to get auto reminders of birthdays. It’s all digital and automatic. Just click on the digital card you want sent and add a personal thought. I’ve been using it for years, and amazingly, people gush how impressed they are with my ability to keep track of their birthdays.
Hopefully, these 4 simple practices will move you off a negative bias preventing you from nurturing your network. Make a list of people you want to stay in touch with. The more value you put into your network, the more your professional networth will increase.
Happy Holidays Allen – I hope you had a great year!
Best Wishes, Paul
Thanks Paul. All the best to you and family!
I hope you are having a wonderful holiday also, Allen! I had a great class with you and it was an awesome learning experience! 🙂
Hey Stacy – you too! And thanks so much for the kind words about your experience in our class. You made my day!
Why does networking feel like a fake person trying to take advantage of someone else because of someone they know?
I wouldn’t be friends with these people if I didn’t ‘have’ to in order to get ahead.
It just feels wrong and superficial.
I know, so often it IS a fake relationship where one person tries to use another for personal, one sided gain – or at least it feels that way. I hate that, and my “phony person radar” is always turned on. Really good networking is about your attitude towards the human race. Do you believe that we need each other to survive and succeed, and do you believe you can help others. When I go to Chamber of Commerce meetings or other business types of conferences and events, I make it a point to find the wallflowers and befriend them. I know how they feel, because I’ve been them. There’s always, at a minimum, 1-2 degrees of separation between me and someone or something I know that can help them in their lives. Often it’s not even about work, it could be about college info for their high school kid, something on hip replacements, a music video of their favorite band, or an article I read that they would like. If we get along, I eventually put their email address in my BirthdayAlarm.com calendar, so at there’s a connection 1/year over the long term. Who knows where it leads in the future? For people I already know and want to maintain connection, I send them links to stuff they’re into, usually starting the email with: “When I read this it made me think of you.” Again, who knows where that leads? I trust in the karma. If I focus on the giving, I’m good.