“Together we are what we can’t be alone.”
Strength in numbers. Two heads are better than one. It’s not what you know, it’s who.
You’ve heard it a thousand ways and while the popularity game is never fun to play, networking is its tolerable cousin. At face value, the concept of networking can feel fake, contrived, or even a scheming behavior that is based on a ‘what-can-you-do-for-me’ attitude. If you’ve ever felt like this, you are not alone. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many that will intentionally befriend and beguile with the only goal of helping themselves. These individuals have given networking a bad name. Let’s hit the reset button today.
“But,” you ask, “how will this help me get promoted?”
What if ‘networking’ meant meeting people to learn how you could help them? And what if everyone did this? Alas ‘altruistic networking’ is born. With this definition there are several steps we need to follow.
- Identify Your Skills – Before you begin your campaign across America kissing babies and shaking hands, know what you have to offer. What are a few things that you are good at? This could be anything from using a certain software (Excel, Snapchat, Gmail), performing a particular task (setting up A/V equipment, organizing your closet, baking/cooking), or having a strong knowledge around a particular subject (technology news, hiking, parenting). It doesn’t have to be work related. Having a mix is actually better. Your hidden talent may be the solution to another’s dilemma. Write it all down so you’ll quickly remember when out meeting people.
- Generously Targeted Audiences – Remember the intention of networking in this article is aimed towards getting promoted. So while it may be fun (if not exhausting) to reach out to everyone in the comments of your favorite Youtube video, that would not be a productive use of your time. So pair down your target audience, but not too much! Help can come from the most unlikely places. My suggestion is to begin connecting within your company first, then your industry or space. This is the entire premise of LinkedIn and is a great place to start. MeetUp.com is another site where you can easily find like-minded people and even has the added benefit of live in-person meetings regularly scheduled! Doap.
- Proactive Engagement – Networking doesn’t happen alone at home on your couch. You’ll need to take action and reach out. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to wander through crowded malls with a ‘Free Hugs’ sign. (In fact, don’t do that.) While meeting people in person is always best when networking, it’s not the only way. You can easily meet like-minded people online via social media, niche forums, Youtube channels, etc. Being proactive is the key. And that means initiating the conversation. Don’t wait for the exchange to come to you.
- Be Curious – If you’re meeting people in order to help them you’ll first need to learn what they need help with. That means talking to them about more than the weather. Instead ask them questions that dig deeper than generic topics and polite conversation. You’ll know when you’ve hit the right subject because they will keep talking about it. Listen for their conflict. Then restate the problem back to them. Even if you don’t have an solution you will have demonstrated you can relate.
- Get the Contact – Once you’ve learned what it is that matters to your new friend, let them know you got their back. If you were able to provide them advice, fantastic! If not, perhaps you have a friend (or someone else you’ve met networking) that has a solution and you’ll be sure to make the connection or pass along any new info you gain in the future. Of course in order to do that you’ll need to exchange contact information, which should come willing if the exchange has been genuine.
- Finish Strong – If you’ve spent the conversation focusing on the other person, it’s now your time to share. Don’t be smarmy or cryptic. Be deliberate. Tell them exactly your ambition, interest, and current obstacles. Honesty will be expected and appreciated at this point. Ask them directly how they might solve the obstacles you’re encountering. Discuss how you’ve approached them so far. PRO TIP: This part should articulate your strengths and abilities as well. If you receive feedback or a solution, great! But don’t push for a response (or compliment, or hand-out, etc). Simply inform them that you’d be appreciative of any thoughts they may have in the future. You’ve already give them your info, remember?
- Epilogue – Congratulations, you networked and lived to tell about it! There’s one final step, though. Follow up. Have you been able to learn anything new regarding your contact’s interests or goals? Thought of a new approach? Read a relating article? Met another contact with similar objectives? Tell them! Once you’ve reached out and re-connected, whether it is a follow up call, outgoing email, or social media like/follow, you’ll have completed your networking exercise. And you’ve become much more promotable because of it.
The intangible by-product of networking is a mutual awareness, understanding, and access to potential opportunities. You’ll be all the smarter when it comes to other areas of your company, specific challenges, and the people they pertain to. And guess what? The more people that know your name, what you’re about, capable of, and interested in, the more likely you will be discussed when opportunities come up.
+100% to Promotability!
This is just one aspect of career advancement. To learn more ways you can get promoted continue the series here: “Simply Master These 4 Areas To Get Promoted”
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