Yesterday I taught a class in networking at a local employment center. I was fascinated by the introduction my topic was given:
“Professional Networking Group Members Training Topic: Successful Networking Experience; What worked, What to avoid; How to get close to a Hiring Manager.”
When I read this advertising blurb, I realized I had a problem. Networking is NOT about how to get close to a hiring manager. Absolutely not! In fact, I am of the opinion that if one tries to use networking to get “close” to a hiring manager, it will do more damage than good. They will smell it a mile away and run for the hills.
Networking is about giving. Then you give some more. And then you give a lot more. The only thing you hope to gain in a network is trust. You have to be worthy of enough trust that your friends will introduce you to their friends. Don’t ever go into a network planning on getting something. It won’t work.
When building a network, we are asking friends for something very special – an introduction to their friends. No one is going to turn over a friend’s name to someone they feel is going to betray their trust. Think about it. If I presented a sales spiel of how you should give me a job and then asked for your friends names, would you give them to me? Nope. No way.
So what do you have to give? Who knows. You don’t know that going in. You discover it along the way. Sometimes it doesn’t present itself right away. You have to give first. A good example happened to me a few years ago. I was given the name of a wonderful woman who worked in the State Department of Education. I called her to ask if we could meet. She didn’t want to, not sure what I wanted from her and definitely not wanting to give anything to me. After more explanation, she finally agreed to a five minute meeting. I went in and gave an abbreviated introduction of myself and asked her a couple questions.
She was obviously harried and I asked what had her so frustrated. She told me of a problem she was facing in the department and didn’t have the resources to solve it. Fortunately, the week before I had met someone in the Board of Education who mentioned he had just solved that exact problem. It was a thrill to introduce her to him and his solution. As soon as I explained it, she relaxed, smiled and started quizzing me on what I knew and how I knew it. I couldn’t get out of her office for 45 minutes. I politely tried to stick to her 5 minute timetable and she wouldn’t hear of it. She spent the next 30 minutes giving me valuable information that I needed myself. Without giving first, I would have never received a thing from her.
That is what I mean by give, give, give. Every time contact is made with a member of your network, you need to be thinking about what they need and how you can help them get it. Ask them straight out, “Is there anything I can do for you today?” Ask a few questions. When trust is built, they will generally open up about something. If you can’t solve it yourself, perhaps there is someone in your network who can. Don’t just give them the name, but make the introduction. Give, give and then give some more.
So why network if all you are going to do is give? Because, when the time is right, you will receive without asking. For example, out of the blue, Tuesday I received a short note from someone in my network who saw I was giving the training on building a network and offered to give me some folios to use as incentives. What a wonderful gesture. It made my presentation go better and made me more successful. And you can bet your life I am going to find plenty of ways to give back to him, too. Give, give, give. And you will receive. Hmmm…. Sounds like some very old wisdom I have heard before.