The thing that often turns many people off from networking is how everyone who does it seems to be thinking only of themselves. It’s a belief that’s not exactly without merit. Many staffing services see it all the time: The ubiquitous networker who prowls events and conventions, handing out business cards to people they think can help them find a job, a book deal or venture capital funding. This approach isn’t so much about nurturing relationships — which is what networking is about in the first place — as it is using people to your advantage.
But what if an attitude of helping others could lead to more success? How can you change your focus to help others in networking and still get positive results?
Change your Mindset
Networking should translate to helping other people, an approach that may seem overly idealistic to some, but one that’s actually pragmatic. Any relationship is hinged on a give and take cycle — some days are about giving, others are about receiving. The common mistake many people make is leading with taking, which only turns people off. Instead, giving more to your network of people can lead to more benefits, as it cultivates positive relationships and gives you a good reputation in your community.
Everyone Has Something Unique to Offer
Many people, especially those who are just starting out looking for work, believe they don’t really have anything of value to share with people above them. This kind of thinking stems from low self-confidence and a fear of disappointing people they admire.
If you meet someone more skilled and experienced, ask them about themselves – don’t start with a sales pitch selling yourself. You’ll be surprised just how much those above the totem pole need help, even from those supposedly below them. For example, if a CEO is looking for reliable interns, you may have connections with staffing services that could be of help.
Helping Makes You Likeable
The idea of approaching networking to help others first may seem overly optimistic, but many employment agencies have seen this method ending up more effective than entering a networking relationship with a “give me” approach.
Even if there’s a difference in power and experience, any relationship is about mutual exchange. Those who are on top started out by receiving some form of help, and they’re often able to discern when someone is trying to use them. Conversely, they’re likely to appreciate someone who shows a genuine interest in cultivating a real relationship with them.