Much of my joy from networking comes not from what new business I can generate (okay, that is fun), but from learning about what others do and how I can connect them to the ideas, people and resources that can help and inspire them.
Generous and helpful
Good networkers are generous with sharing information and resources because networking is not only about getting what you need, but helping others get what they need. My friend Dr. Barry Miller once said, “I may not ever need to know someone in Timbuktu, but someone in my network might.”
Making referrals and recommendations on behalf of others is a critical activity in networking, and can help build the value of your personal brand. However, making connections is probably something most of us don’t do enough of because we’re too busy with own issues.
Neglecting your network?
If you’ve been neglecting your network recently, particularly if you’ve been facing your own business or career challenges, take a moment and think about a connection you can make.
Get plugged in and plug others
Here are 4 ideas to get you started:
Connect someone to a FRIEND: Have two colleagues who seem to be on the same wavelength and should know each other? Make the call. Arrange for the three of you to have lunch or get together for coffee. No obligation, no pressure, just a chance to introduce them and chat about what they have in common. Or leverage social media and make a quick Twitter intro (Twintro?). It takes just seconds of your time but could have a dramatic impact on their lives.
Connect someone to a RESOURCE: Discovered an expert or service that can improve people’s lives? Spread the word. Earlier in the year on the advice of my friend Warren Whitlock, a book marketing strategist, I launched my own show on Blog Talk Radio. While Smart Networking Radio does help me promote my business, I’m actually having much more fun promoting my guests and helping them spread the word about their businesses.
Connect someone to an ORGANIZATION: Involved in a networking group or non-profit cause that you feel strongly about? Share it with somebody. At a recent talk I gave, one of the participants was a new entrepreneur, six months into her business and looking to connect with other women business owners. I gave her the contact info for the National Association of Women Business Owners, where I had once served on the board of the New York City chapter.
Connect someone to a CUSTOMER: Have you looked beyond your area of expertise to find out what else your customers might need to make their businesses more successful? Do it now. We can get so caught up in our own area of a project that we don’t think beyond the visible boundary. But the more of a resource you can be to your customers and the more connections into their companies you forge, the more valuable you become to more people on the inside.
When you become known as a connector, a go-to person within your network, your circle of influence grows. Everyone will want to ask you for a recommendation or be recommended by you. But always give generously and don’t keep score. You’ll be more effective at building a solid network when you keep your intentions pure.
By thinking beyond your own immediate needs, particularly in challenging times such as these, you increase the value (and number of supporters) of your personal brand, you get help flowing through your network, and just like a boomerang, some of that help is sure to find its way back to you.
Liz Lynch is founder of the Center for Networking Excellence and author of Smart Networking: Attract a Following In Person and Online (McGraw-Hill, 2008). She writes, speaks and consults to experienced professionals on how to seamlessly integrate social media and traditional networking to save time and accelerate results.