I am passionate about connecting with people. I also know from experience that the more successful you are, the busier you get, and the harder it is to find time to connect. And I do mean connecting, not networking.
Why Networking Gets a Bad Rap
There’s a good reason people cringe at the thought of networking. If you read the definitions, you can feel the difference. Networking is defined as interacting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career. Whereas connecting means to know someone well enough to be able join him or her with other people, ideas, resources, and opportunities. Networking can feel transactional, selfish and fake; on the other hand, connecting feels relational, focused on others, real, and most often, mutually beneficial.
You have a finite amount of time for most things. Even if connecting is a priority for you, your time to do so is limited. I can help you use that time wisely in order to make the most of it.
You Hold the Key
There is a door in front of you somewhere in your life—something that is stuck or an opportunity you wish would come your way. Chances are someone holds the key to that door. And, I think even more importantly—YOU are holding the keys for someone else.
You may have business development goals and need to make connections for business. But, maybe you have more than that in mind. Maybe you want to help others, and by connecting with MORE people, you could help more people. Maybe you are looking to deepen your relationships at work (did you know that if you have one work friend, your satisfaction goes up by 50%?!). Maybe you’re involved with a great organization and want to spread the word and help others connect to its mission. Or maybe, like me, you truly love to connect people—to build community.
Once you understand WHY you want to connect with people, think about WHO. Who should you be connecting with? People you admire? People you want to invest in? People who can help build your influence? People in a complimentary industry? Colleagues? Take time to create a connecting wish list for 2016; list the names of those that can help you achieve your why. Here's the worksheet I use to answer these questions; I hope it will help you, too:
Tips to Connect Intentionally
Once you have your list, here are some tips for making the most of your time spent connecting:
- Make Time: If you do not set aside time for connecting, chances are it will never happen. Commit to a lunch a month, one coffee a week, or three breakfasts a month - whatever you need to accomplish your goals.
- Face Time: Yes, it needs to happen face to face and probably one on one. According to Ed Keller and Brad Fay’s research, “The decisions we make are based on true interpersonal influence: social influence, which happens most often, and most powerfully, face-to-face.”
- Know Your Own Value: Here’s the thing—people want to know you. I promise. And yet we can be too intimidated to reach out if we’re uncertain about why someone would want to meet with us. If you struggle with this, ask a friend or a coach to help you think through the value you bring. And remember—sometimes you can enrich someone’s life by letting them help you.
- Be Prepared: I highly recommend preparing a few questions before you meet. If you’re a talker, it’ll keep you on track. If you’re quiet, it’ll ensure you help direct the conversation.
- Be Real: As off-putting as it is when the other person talks the whole time, I find it equally off putting when I ask questions and the other person won’t share anything about themselves. Be open to sharing some things about yourself – hopes, dreams, hobbies, books you’re reading, things you’re working on – that’s where the connection happens.
- Ask and Answer this Question: Before you leave your meeting, ask, “how can I help you in the next month?” This can be a powerful gift to give someone. AND, be ready to answer the same question if they ask you in return. Be specific about what you could use help with.
- Follow Up: If you want to add value and make a lasting connection, follow up in some way. Send a handwritten note, a link to an interesting article, or make an introduction to another person you think they should meet. Follow up is how you open doors and help others.
If you don’t have a goal that requires a new connection right now, I challenge you be the connection for someone else. What would happen if you invested in just ONE person? You possess a key for someone—a connection to a person, idea, or opportunity. Whether it’s a business contact, a new client, a new perspective, a spark of energy, a push in the right direction, a new job opportunity, or just the confidence of knowing someone believes in them—connection fuels growth. Please be generous with what you’ve been given.
Andy Stanley said, “It is our direction, not our intention, that determine our destination.” Follow these career tips and you’ll be connecting intentionally in no time, and you’ll quickly see the benefits of growing and enhancing your network.