Networking is basically asking someone for an insight, help, a suggestion or ultimately a contact. In order to get to that point however, ‘you gotta ask!’
This is where it begins and ends. You gotta ask what you can do for them, before asking in return.
John Kennedy’s famous remark – “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask for what you can do for your country”- has become the icon of his presidency and it’s the first thing that comes to mind, fifty years after his death. The same truth applies to our personal lives. Unless you’re asking something confidential or immoral or you’re unrealistic in your request go ahead – ask for help, for advice; for an opinion and for a contact name.
Don’t get up hung up on how it may look or be perceived when you ask for a contact name. Don’t give it a thought. Anybody who looks down on you for asking for help, advice or a contact name doesn’t deserve to be in your network in the first place, –Just take it for what it is—their shortsightedness and move on!
The reason you network is because it gets you connected and helps identify and recognize who can help you now, in a week, a month, a year or way down the line. That might not cross your mind when you make a new contact, but you may find they can help in more ways than you expect.
As an example, Sebastien is a Belgian colleague of mine with skills in preparing EU funding applications for agricultural industry projects. Agriculture was an industry foreign to me, so I couldn’t do any business with Sebastien.
Nevertheless we kept in touch and I sent him a few leads. Then I called him to see if he could connect me with an expert on EU funding applications for cultural and lifestyle events and he immediately said of course! Clearly, when we met, I thought I would never do business with Sebastien, but three years after our first meeting he sent me the contact name of another EU funding expert, saving me tremendous time.
You just never know! The lesson is, in this day of job and responsibility migration, you will never know!
Keep an open mind when networking and realize that although you’ll not always get what you want, you’re becoming a catalyst to your network. Over time, your peers and new contacts will recognize that you give without asking when it comes to networking and you’re becoming the go-to guy in the process. That’s powerful.
Finally, remember that we all need relationships to work effectively and live happy and fulfilled lives- interdependency makes it all work.