Is networking really dead? No. But has it evolved? Definitely. Making one-dimensional connections is easier than ever. Reciprocal, mutually beneficial relationships – now that’s a lost art.
The proliferation of social media sites – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and the like – have made forming connections via large (practically anonymous) networks the norm. Too many professionals are relying solely on them as a means to advance their career. But consider this: our conversations need to go beyond “here’s my business card” or “connect with me on LinkedIn” to a two-way dialogue that translates into benefits for all parties involved. In my new book, Networking is Dead, I tackle these issues head on, and offer actionable solutions for building networks that inspire transformative results.
In advance of its release, I’d love to share some ideas around this new era of networking. First and foremost, professionals looking to build a network must let go of the notion that: “the more connections, the better.” It sounds cliché, but quality over quantity applies in all networking scenarios. In order to find the right people for your primary circle of relationships spend some time to get clear on your own personal “why”. What difference are you trying to make in your organization, for your customers, or for your community? People who operate from a larger sense of purpose inspire us and become “attractors of possibility”.
To start meaningful conversations, ask thoughtful questions and share personal stories that characterize your passions, goals and visions. Authenticity is key when looking to build a connection that will benefit both parties. And reciprocation matters. By giving your time, knowledge, talents or advice to someone you recently met, you are building a relationship on trust and appreciation.
Consider my “5 Levels of Exchange” as an outline for getting started:
1. Develop an emotional connection
2. Share information
3. Share personal experiences (knowledge) and the insights achieved from them (wisdom)
4. Begin to discover what you can do to help your connection
5. The actions occurs—you make the introduction or referral
Once the effort has been put in to building the relationship, keep it up! Continue the interchange and keep it fresh. Nothing breaks down a connection like leveraging the relationship for your benefit then turning a deaf ear.
Do you have any networking success stories to share? What about mistakes you have made, and learned from? We would love to hear your experiences.
Larry Mohl is a co-founder and principal of Performance Inspired.