Adam Grant recently wrote a piece about how we think about networking — and how we’ve got it wrong.
The full article is here.
If we need a reason to believe this, consider Dale Carnegie’s masterpiece How To Win Friends And Influence People. What’s his main point? Think about it from their perspective.
We are human. We are, therefore, naturally selfish. Rarely are we willing to network with someone who cannot give us anything in return. It may be feeling good about growing the next generation, having a sizable impact on a group, or being a philanthropist by protecting the environment or animal species. But even those are mostly for our own benefit and feeling of self worth. Yet, for the most part, we want to grow our careers, our lives, and set ourselves up for future success, even if we don’t know what that looks like today. That’s a core objective of networking.
So when we get a chance to create, to build, to share, that gives us a chance to network. People want to network with you just like you want to network with them. So bring something of value. Just like everyone brings a dish to a potluck, bring something to share to your network. And just like a potluck, don’t bring bring the same exact thing like everyone else — we can only eat so much pasta salad!
If you feel like you have nothing to bring, you’re likely wrong. You’ve got talents, capabilities, and skills — and hopefully a heart. You may need to hone those talents or maybe those are the same skills as many others. In that case, diversify, venture out, explore.
Much of networking is providing value to others. So think about what others want or need and ponder that. Solve big and little problems. Have a way to demonstrate your track record: what you’ve accomplished, what you’ve done for others, and your critical thinking skills for problems that haven’t even been identified. Your network is counting on you — including those who you haven’t even yet met. You’ve got a lot to offer, so influence people by thinking about their needs and how you can help.