Overlooked Forms Of Networking That Pay Off Big
I used to despise the idea of “networking.” To me, it just conjured up feelings of sleaziness, manipulation, lies, and calculation. I used to think that networking could only be very fake and superficial—that it involved pretending to like people you do not like and pretending to be someone you’re not in order to get ahead. Then, I realized that I only thought that because I had never successfully networked. The funny thing is that, you can’t really go out there and force networking to happen. True networking comes rather easily because it involves your preexisting network—a network that you’ve built up, slowly and quite naturally over time. When you network successfully, you may not even realize you did it because you were just doing the most obvious thing—giving help you were able to give, to a person within your reach. Here are generous forms of networking that always pay off, and are examples of how networking should go.
Sending an employer a qualified applicant
You know of a friend or acquaintance looking to fill a position within her company. You also know of someone who is, truly, qualified and quite skilled at that work. So you ask the hiring employer if you can send your friend her way, knowing that you’re proud to send this applicant, and happy to help both people because you believe in what they’re doing.
Sharing an opportunity with job-seekers
Perhaps you simply hear of an opportunity. You don’t necessarily know the hiring party or the decision-maker personally but, you’ve become aware of an opportunity, it’s not the right fit for your skillset, and you know a group of professionals who would be perfect for it. So, you send an email, containing the information (where/how to apply) to anyone you can think of that would be good for it.
Giving a shout-out to someone’s victory
If someone in your industry—or even in your adjacent industry—has something great happen to her, you sing her praises. You share the article about her on your social media platforms. You help widen the reach of her celebration. Everyone remembers the people who were genuinely happy for them when they made it, rather than those who just leeched on and asked for something.
Making a mutually-beneficial introduction
Sometimes, you know two people whom, perhaps cannot help each other today, but you know will be of use to each other in the future. Maybe one person organizes galas and events that often need entertainers, and one person manages talent. Just think strategically about whom you know, who can help one another, and connect those dots for them. Perhaps they’ll do the same for you one day. It’s a great way I think women should help each other out more.
Promoting a friend’s business
If someone you know just started a business that you genuinely believe in and think is high-quality—this could be anything from a clothing boutique to a dog grooming salon—tell everyone about her. Send customers her way.
Patronizing a friend’s business
Of course, you too should be patronizing the businesses. The big name companies already have enough business. Any time you need something, like a new pair of jeans or a piece of artwork for your home, ask yourself if you know someone personally who makes and sells such things. Go to her before you go to the large chain stores.
Hiring someone within your network
Are you in a position to hire someone? Before turning to online platforms that will swarm your inbox with literally a thousand emails from not-well-vetted applicants, think about whom you know. If you don’t know someone directly you could hire, think of people you respect and ask them if they could recommend you someone. Then, you give them the opportunity to network and connect some dots, while receiving a vetted applicant.
Recommending a friend’s services
Just like you’d recommend a friend’s brick and mortar business, recommend a friend’s services. If someone is looking for an accountant or a makeup artist, think about whom you know and whom they know, and send out feelers within your network. Why should your friend or acquaintance go to a stranger she finds online when she could make a genuine networking connection with someone from your circle?
You probably have knowledge and a skillset that many people out there would love to have—and that many people often spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on classes and workshops to acquire. If you have free time, and someone within your network or someone they know wants to know what you know, offer to mentor or teach them for free.
Attending a friend’s lecture/screening/show
Your friends and your network are always doing things to promote their work and get their name out there. If you can, show your support. Whether that means attending a lecture one is giving on her industry, going to a panel one is moderating, or going to a show one is producing, show face at these events. Every butt in every seat means something to them, and they’ll remember that you came through.
Hosting a get together
Sometimes, just hosting an intimate get together of like-minded individuals can pay off in dividends for years to come, in ways you can’t possibly see now. Quality over quantity is the game here. So invite eight to 12 people you really respect over for a cocktail hour, and have each of them invite someone they respect. Maybe they’ll meet someone they work with in the future, and they’ll thank you for introducing them. It’s a nice, low-pressure way to introduce people.
Throwing a bone when you have one to throw
Sometimes, someone in the network really needs some assistance, right now. Perhaps someone is building her portfolio in ad copy writing, and has a big interview next week. You have a business, you always need ads—let her create one for your company to add to her portfolio. When someone reaches out to the group with an urgent request, really think hard on how you could help them fulfill it.
Assist/help someone above you
The best way to reach a tier above you is to provide help. Too many people make the mistake of asking for help, but successful individuals get those requests too often. See if you can be of assistance to someone more successful than you. It’s a great way for that person to get to know you, without you simply being a burden on her time.
Publicize and share what you learn
Any time you learn anything you think could be useful or inspiring to your network, send it out there. Get an email list going of professionals you like and respect and drop anything you find helpful into that email thread.
Ask yourself, “Whom can I help today?”
When you want to network, don’t ask yourself, “Who can help me?” Ask yourself, “Whom can I help?” These interactions create so many more life-long, sustainable relationships. Simply asking for things all of the time can, at best, get you something once, but that’s it. That person won’t really remember you. In her memory, you’re just someone who takes. So, aim to give.