Creating your professional village is what’s also known as networking, a term that is over-used, worn out, and misunderstood. What many think of as networking is often the opposite.
Opposites do not attract
For example, it’s the opposite of networking to leave an event or meeting with your pockets stuffed full of business cards from people you’ve barely met, who you’ll have completely forgotten on the drive home, including that one man or woman you really did connect with.
It’s the opposite of networking to spend four hours on LinkedIn.com indiscriminately firing off unsolicited connect invitations to people you’ve never met, don’t know, and who probably share nothing in common with you. Most will delete your invitation with an annoyed growl. Some people won’t mind of course, but don’t confuse this method of gaining connections with the true power of building your network.
Networking is not about what others can do for you. It’s about what you can do for others. This has nothing to do with spiritual beliefs or philosophy. It’s just common sense.
Why would someone help you unless you’ve already demonstrated that you’re interested in helping them? Always put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
Ask the right questions
The best way to find out if other people share your interests is to ask questions and then be a good listener. When they tell you what they do, a great question to ask is,
“What’s it like being a ________ (teacher, lawyer, systems analyst, etc)?”
People rarely take this level of interest and most people love to talk about what they do and why they do it.
This is where shy or quiet types often do well and where those who are gregarious, life-of-the-party types might struggle. It’s hard to learn what matters to others if you’re thinking about yourself, or to hear what other people are saying when you’re making yourself the center of attention.
My absolute favorite question to ask is, “What can I do to help your business grow?”
Most people have never been asked it and are stunned at first. But if the question is sincere, they are genuinely appreciative, even if they aren’t able to think of a way you can help at the moment.
If you make a habit of getting to know what other people are doing, think about, and need, you’ll quickly find that, in many cases, what you have to offer is the chance to connect them with others.
Adding value to others
You might meet someone who’s working as a realtor just when you learn that one of your other connections is getting ready to sell a house.
You might meet a young business consultant after you’ve connected with an entrepreneur who needs help with a business plan.
Each time you connect two people, you’ve created a neighborhood in your professional village. Each time you solve someone else’s problem, your value goes up and the people in your village become eager to find ways to show their gratitude—by helping you.
You’re connecting the dots. You can’t know what the final picture will be. No matter how carefully you may plan your career, opportunities you may never have considered will pop up. That’s part of the adventure of networking. You never know where it might lead.
In the end, networking is about cultivating productive relationships. Ask questions with the intention of adding value to others, and yes, you will get that sought-after business card.
Find out more in chapter 8 at www.ChampThink.com. Comment below with your favorite Networking Tips/Thoughts.
by John Wasserman
Proceeds benefit Children's Dyslexia Centers