Think about all of the people you have met throughout your entire life. There are probably thousands of people whose paths you have crossed. How many of these people are you still connected with? How many of them are you adding value to their lives?
A quick skim of my Facebook friends and there are several people who I have on there who are mere acquaintances. Although they are good people and I would love to spend more time with them, the truth is, we are not adding value to each other’s life. A lot of networking events around base and elsewhere yield the same results. We go home with a stack full of business cards or a deeper contact list on our phones and sometimes even a master list of all who attended the conference. What good is this?
I am not the smartest or most talented person in too many areas of my life; however, I know someone who is. I have always prided myself in getting to know people very well and truly learning what their talents are. Honestly, it is fun hearing people talk about something they are passionate about. Who wants to listen to some boring story or someone go on and on about something trivial. Wouldn’t you rather be engaged in a conversation about something that interests you? Others feel the same way.
I try to engage the other person and learn more about them. From a personal standpoint, it is polite and from a professional stance, it reveals ways that I could serve their needs. To do this, simply have a conversation with a curious mind. Ask questions about what they are telling you. “Could you tell me more?” or “Then what did you do?” are great when you are at a loss. The goal is to not be thinking of what you are going to say the whole time you are talking to the other person. Everyone can tell you are doing this and not genuinely interested in what they are saying.
Add to the conversation with the other person. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk. Find something you have in common to build that connection and then find out more about them. Then as they are talking, you can learn about an issue they may be having and you can either help them directly or introduce them to someone you know who could potentially help them. I have made so many great connections this way.
When people know you truly care about and are invested in their success, they become instinctively invested in your success. Wouldn’t you rather help someone who would help you rather than the person who is clearly using you? I know I would. If I am friends with you, I want you to be successful. I want you to get that awesome job, I want you to get promoted, I want you to achieve your dreams and if I can be a part of that in a small way, I have succeeded as well. Not only do I have the joy of watching another grow, I have a friend who can help another in an increased capacity.
Basically, networking with people is just like a computer network. Computer networks don’t hoard all the information; they find efficient ways to pass it along to where it is needed. When you take this approach, people are more than willing to assist you when they can. It is not about tracking favors or trumpeting how you helped them; it is about being a human being who invests in other people.
Networking is more than collecting names and numbers. It is more than letting everyone know how great you are. Networking should be about finding how you can add value to another’s life not if you make 20 new friends at an event.