We’re often led to believe that the purpose of networking is the creation of ties that will help us succeed. The more connections we make, that raise us to the next rung on the ladder of success, the better. Right? Not so fast!
This is important. When we meet individuals and present ourselves, consciously or subconsciously, as eager to get to know them because they may benefit us, we’ve missed the authenticity of true relationships. Folks generally recognize when they are getting stepped on so that you can step up; and that is the quickest way to squash your social network.
Therefore, networking isn’t simply a means to get ahead by using and name-dropping the “higher up” people you know or have met.
Now How about this– does this sound familiar? “Hi, I’m Emmaline. Nice to meet you. I noticed you are wearing jewelry. I sell jewelry. Here’s my business card. Want to get together over coffee and we can discuss a jewelry party you could host?” Here is what I think when I am approached similarly to this example: She is pursuing a client, and trying to make a connection with me in order to make money. It’s a little irritating. She could have simply been friendly to me, and at some point let me know she sells jewelry if I’m interested.
Therefore, networking isn’t simply a means to increase clients and business.
Next–naturally, we will encounter a crisis or two (or two hundred) during the course of our careers. It’s tempting to go about as usual, focusing on our jobs, until we run into a big issue. You lost your job; you need a favor; you need assistance; you need advice, or what-have-you. Suddenly someone comes to mind who could help you and you brush the dust off his e-mail address and send him a “HELP ME!” message, also known as an SOS. Yes, you’re using him, and yes, he knows it. It didn’t have to be this way. You could have kept in contact with him and it could have been a favor for a friend. If that had been the chosen route, he would have known you value him (not just his connections) and it would have preserved your reputation.
Therefore, networking isn’t simply a means to get help, and get it fast, from a long-ago acquaintance.
Instead, a healthy social network is a web of relationships that are mutually supportive and appropriately fostered. You meet people in your neighborhood, in your child’s school, in your synagogue, at your job, at a conference, and on a business trip. You spend time talking about what you have in common. You exchange contact information and you check in with each other on occasion. If you think you can help him, or connect him with someone who can help him, you do your best to make it happen. Time moves on and you have met and kept in touch with many, many folks. Some of the people you really enjoy and maintain friendships, others you talk to on occasion. You help each other and you appreciate each other. Now that is a healthy social network.
Stay tuned for tips on enriching and strengthening your social network.