Some people believe networking is about going to conferences or events, being social, making conversation and when appropriate letting people know about their career or job search interests. They attend events thinking – how can these people help me get what I want?
This approach to networking rarely gets the kind of results one gets when thinking exactly the opposite – how can I help others get what they want?
You see effective networking is really about giving first, not taking. It is about using your unique value and your own network to help others get what they want. As we are more keen to help those who have helped us or others, regularly giving to others opens up the channels for people to help you back.However it is important to remember that networking is not transactional. If you help others with the explicit expectation of getting help in return, then you are not really giving, you are taking action with the intention of ultimately taking what you want.
These two ideas may seem contrary to one another, but the nuances of difference between them is crucial to networking effectively.
When you hold a transactional mindset, this intention generally comes through in your attitude, behavior or words and can be seen as trying to coerce others to help you. Rather than instilling good feelings about you in someone else, you can create a sense of obligation that motivates people to help you not because they want to, but because they feel they have to.
This is also does not always support the idea of long-term relationship building so critical to building a strong network – the kind of network that is going to truly support you in achieving your career goals. With a transactional mindset, if it is not apparent that someone can help in the short term they are often not seen as the valuable resources that they could actually be.
When you are taking a ‘how can I help others first’ approach to networking, you are creating opportunities to demonstrate your value to at least one other person – sometimes many depending on the nature of your support. Someone else understanding the value that you can offer a team or organization is the first step to building an advocate who can speak from personal experience about your ability to make a contribution.
And it is those advocates that can make all the difference in the world when it comes to getting found or getting recommended for desired roles.
In sum, in order to both maximize the value you provide to others and build, positive, meaningful and mutually respecting relationships, start with the right mindset.
To borrow a quote from another Fitzgerald (JFK), when networking “ask not what others can do for you, but what you can do for others”.
by Megan Fitzgerald.
Megan is an expat and international career coach, founder of Career By Choice and expert guide to the world of global careers. She has two decades of experience supporting professionals, executives, entrepreneurs and organizations in 40+ countries. Megan uses a strategic, 360°approach to help expats become highly visible, sought after experts and leaders and succeed abroad. She’s been featured in Fortune Magazine, CNN Money, Wall Street Journal Online and numerous expat and career books and publications.
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