As we enter college (or any other form of vocational training) and then move on into the workforce, there is usually someone in our personal or professional life that passes along this sage advice – “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” In other words, no matter what you do for a living, it’s vital that you make networking with others a priority.
Networking can be defined as “a group or system of interconnected people or things.” The key here is the interconnected nature of all of us. If we look back on our journey, we will probably find that although we’ve done the hard work to accomplish our goals, we really didn’t do it alone.
On its face, you may assume that networking is all about what’s in it for you – a new job, a good recommendation, a coveted volunteer position, etc. And to some degree, that’s true. But a word of caution on this world view – you’ll get much further in life if you’re willing to give without expectations.
Some believe that to give support, guidance or help without an expectation of reciprocity should not be defined as networking at all. Instead, some believe it’s the art of “relationship building,” a term, which more actually captures the hard work and complexity associated with building meaningful relationships with others. No matter how it’s defined, the act of building deep connections with others can alter how your life turns out.
So where should you start? It’s simple. Follow the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Treating people right is about treating them how you would like to be treated.
We have all probably found ourselves in a situation where we could use the help and support of somebody far above our social or professional status. I’m sure if you think about it, you can undoubtedly remember a time when you reached out to that key person only to be turned away, or worse, ignored altogether. If you can consider how that felt, you can work to ensure that you never do that to anybody else. It’s all about following the Golden Rule.
So, let’s combine the Golden Rule with helping others without expectation. What does that look like?
Listen more. Talk less.
For you to understand what someone else may want or need, you must really listen to what he/she has to say.
Most people just want to pitch themselves or their ideas. Don’t be that person. Building a real connection requires a genuine understanding of those you are trying to connect with. All people want to be heard, and by simply listening, you become a resource and an asset. Set yourself apart by really listening to what people have to say.
By listening to others, you will inevitably gain a deeper understanding of the challenges or obstacles, which people face. And then ask yourself – can you help them solve their problems? Are you in a position to help? If you can – then you probably should. And the key to this is to help without expectation.
Of course, you’ve got to strike a balance here too. You simply can’t spend all your time solving problems for others. You must discern how to help or support without taking things too far.
Send business to others. Expect nothing in return. This is a very powerful act of generosity and respect. It’s considered the highest compliment. People who do this are rarely forgotten and are often considered “super networkers.”
If you have the power to connect someone to a contact that he/she is trying to reach, try to make that happen. Of course, you need to use sound judgement when building this bridge. If making this connection is beneficial to all concerned, move forward without expectation.
Most of us have had the privilege of standing on the shoulders of those that have come before us. If we can all be that person for someone else, why wouldn’t we? Although the goal is to help without expectation, watch what happens in your life when you continue to give without expecting anything in return. It’s magic.