If you’re a business professional in Houston and you’ve joined a committee or organization, it’s inevitable that on any given weekday you’ve got some form of networking experience on the calendar. In fact, you’ve got so many events and soirees on your weekly roster, your friends and family are beginning to wonder if you’re campaigning for political office.
While sometimes the honest intent is to build relationships for immediate benefit, never underestimate the power of a connection over time. And the key to harnessing its full potential is selflessness as well as an understanding of the simple truth that most connections take patience and a genuine interest in others before generating any reward for them or for you.
Also, how about thinking about networking a little differently every so often? Perhaps even in this light: if someone else gains from a connection, then I gain too.
Take a less self-indulgent approach and consider the “Code of [Networking] Ethics” as dictated by a self-proclaimed “connector” (aka: me) – and perhaps you’ll see more of the fruits of networking when you focus on serving others first.
1. Be Selective. It’s virtually impossible to attend every networking event in Houston. You can be selective here. Find ones that appeal to like-minded individuals. It’s also ok to go to the events that actually look fun too. [Seriously. We get it.] There’s another filter that I like to use, where I typically avoid networking events hosted on Thursday and Friday evenings. Those are my nights. However, Mon – Weds = game on.
2. Manage Expectations. Not every event is going to yield an opportunity. Sometimes you attend a lame one. But don’t write off all future events with an organization that executed a serious fail. These groups radically change time, date and location of these soirees as a form of trial and error. Let’s give them some forgiveness knowing that. Regardless, per point number one, are you applying the right filters before deciding on which events to attend?
3. It’s Not Always for [Your] Profit. If you’re a business owner and responsible for the rise and fall of your company, it’s tough to divert your attention away from anything that won’t pay out. However – try to think about the ROI from a networking opportunity not in terms of instant financial reward but in terms of gratification in meeting new people with new perspectives who have an interest in learning about you just the same. A reputation built on positivity and a willingness to help others out of pure good will can be just as valuable as the Benjamin’s. [Plan B? You’re too busy. Got it. So – send someone else from your company who believes in the virtue of reputation management.]
4. Make Time. It can take as little as 30 seconds to send a note, make a phone call and/or forge a relationship that you believe has potential. The small gestures matter.
5. Be a Filter. Protect contact information as you would want your information to be protected. Ask individuals if it’s ok for you to share their info with others before you share it. And also be a filter on time. If it’s not a symbiotic opportunity for the two parties you’re connecting – it may not be worth it.
6. Use Your Judgment. Savvy and skilled connectors use good judgment. They know how to bring a ‘want’ together with a ‘need.’ And they think about it before making it happen.
7. Keep in Touch. Let’s be honest, we take care of those individuals who make personal and financial “deposits” into our lives. It’s true. Clients or business affiliates who make a continual investment in helping you achieve your goals will get priority seating. [On the flip side…don’t be the individual who randomly reaches out to someone you didn’t bother to stay in touch with in order to get a pair of tickets to a sold-out concert. We’re on to you.]
8. Timing Isn’t Everything. Well – not in the networking context at least. All you need to do is follow through. There’s no time constraint on that. Set expectations with people if you must, but those smart professionals you’re looking to connect understand that you’ve got a job to do that actually pays your bills. It may take you some time to follow through on your promise to connect two individuals. This point is a great segue to the next.
9. Stick to your Word. What matters is not how soon you make a connection happen (certain exceptions apply) but that you simply did what you said you were going to do. Reliability goes a long way.
10. Give Thanks. When you are the lucky one to benefit from a connection that someone has graciously bestowed upon you, show appreciation. And be sure to give thanks sooner than later and in whichever ways you believe it will best resonate with this person.
You’d be surprised at how effortless it can be to make significant, positive impacts in so many ways. It really doesn’t take anything other than a little bit of time on your end, an act of kindness on someone else’s behalf, and an eye for who should meet who.
Be known not only for your ability to build a brand or a business, but also for encouraging growth in others where you receive no immediate reward. If you focus on this selfless aspect of networking, someday in your time of need, those that you’ve connected will go above and beyond for you just the same – personally and professionally.
And you never know when a seemingly arbitrary introduction, followed by the occasional email exchange and coffee rendezvous over time, can pave the way to the game changer someone (maybe even you?) have been waiting for.
That all said – happy networking everyone. I’ll be seeing you one of these Mondays – Wednesdays…but probably not a Thursday or Friday.