When I think about networking, I picture myself going to these big events where you don’t quite know anyone, making awkward small talk and throwing around your name card in hopes of making some sort of connection to that one contact who can help you ‘get ahead’. I suppose with Covid, the definition of networking has changed to become ‘add connection on LinkedIn’ - and sending them a direct message.
To be honest, I REALLY DISLIKE this whole notion of networking, because it seems like such an impersonal activity. I acknowledge the importance of connecting with the right people to help propel your business or career forward, but my question is - how can we make it work for us in a way that doesn’t seem so fake?
I think most people can feel it when someone simply makes a connection for the sake of it, and most of the time I’d personally just shrug it off, or not even bother to accept a request or respond.
I’d label this as ‘Forced Connection’ - reaching out to someone only when you need something. By the time you do that, it’s often already too late.
Instead of ‘networking’ by ‘Forced Connections’ - I think we should be focusing on building up ‘Genuine Connections’.
So how do you create these genuine connections?
1) Connect early with specific people
Choose carefully who you want to network with - you’ll want to invest your time and effort to chat with the right folks. If possible, make time to meet these people in person - nothing beats a face to face interaction after all.
2) Find out what is important to them and help add value to them
Everyone always hears this concept of ‘adding value’ - but how do you actually do this? It can be done in different ways, but first, you’ll need to make the effort to find out what is important to the person you want to connect with. This could be through a conversation with them, or some simple ‘research’ on their social media or LinkedIn.
Take me as an example - building up my YouTube Channel is a top priority for me now, so:
- Anyone helping to spread the word about my YouTube / TikTok Channel, as well as my other works like my newsletters etc - would absolutely be adding value to me.
- Anyone who can help make my content creation easier / more productive - would also be adding value to me. Eg. someone who could help me repurpose my content.
3) Add value consistently
Consistency is key in everything we do. If you’re always adding value to this person in areas that are important to them, you’ll be building real rapport with them. Since you are helping them and adding value so frequently, I have no doubt they will remember who you are, and will be more than willing to help you in return when you ask for it.
Lastly, a genuine message goes a long way. You’d be surprised how many people I choose to reply because of the sincerity of the message. There are also people I choose not to reply because they just want something from me.
The eventual result of networking should be a long term mutually beneficial relationship for both parties.
Hopefully, this will help everyone better navigate how to build up genuine connections and avoid all the ‘fake networking’.
Till next month!