Study after study shows the benefits of networking. You make connections that you otherwise would never have made and it’s a great way to increase your profile among industry peers. For some, nothing beats the confidence you feel after working a room and walking away with 5 new customers.
You scratch my back…
If we’re completely honest, we’ll admit that our initial motivation for networking is one-sided. How many leads can I get? Who can introduce me to an influential person? How quickly can I get promoted?
There’s nothing wrong with this. After all, you have to take control of your own career and that means going after what you want. However, if you truly want to get the most out of your network, then you have to start adding value to it.
You’ve recently written a book entitled Negotiation Skills for Millenials and are eager to start promoting it on the speaking circuit. Being a new author and speaker, you’re finding it difficult to get past most receptionists let alone book a speaking engagement. Candice, a close friend of yours, works as an Executive Assistant at a very large training company. She mentions that her boss is looking for new instructors and arranges a meeting. All goes well and you get your very first speaking gig which leads to some in-house training sessions.
…and I’ll scratch yours
You want to thank Candice for all her help. You think about sending her flowers or treating her to lunch. Then you remember that Candice is actually a freelance graphic designer, and as much as she would appreciate a free dinner, she’s really hungry for steady design work so she can eventually quit her day job. Phase Two of your training plan includes the development of an e-learning course. You hire Candice as the graphic designer for the project.
Value-Added Networking Tips
- Do pro-bono work (sparingly) to gain experience. It’s not paid work, but you can use it on your resume.
- Be intentional about buying from people you know personally
- Use social media to increase the exposure of people you know.
Give and take
Networking is about reciprocity. Think of it as the modern-day barter system. As with any good relationship, the best way to maximize your networking relationships is through give-and-take. Think about all the skills, expertise and new business that you can potentially bring to the table and give those back to your network connections. They will reap great rewards for you and your connections.