September 20, 2013
Great networkers share one attribute: Generosity. They put people together that "should meet" for the love of helping others and NOT to generate social debt. They derive delight from knowing their networking efforts are multiplying value in others.
This is perhaps one of the hardest things to grasp as a networker. Often, we've been socialized to think that networking is an exchange of value. Like trading baseball cards. The problem is that it doesn't usually work out that way. When you make a valuable introduction, there isn't always a quid-pro-quo available. So you wait.
Then later, when your intro has turned into a bona fide opportunity, it's easy to internally expect something out of it, or even worse, ask for a piece of the action. That's bad for two reasons: First, it sets you up for disappointment. Often people can't pay you pack, don't pay you back or pay it forward to someone else. If you've been expecting something, your disappointment will inhibit you next time a networking opportunity presents itself.
When you ask for something in return, you are no longer a networker. You are a people-broker. It usually makes other feel pressured, offended or put off. Sometimes we subtly present the match-making bill by asking, "so how did that introduction pan out?" The mere follow up shows that we are tracking it, and can put subtle pressure on your networkee to somehow offer something up in return.
So connect others, get out of the way, and pretend it never happened. This will differentiate you to others, and show them you only have their best interests at heart. It will also ensure that you can continue to do it for the rest of your life, without becoming jaded.
Finally, suppose that your networkee, out of a sense of gratitude, offers to do something for you in return. This happens a lot. You agree to make an important connection, and your beneficiary says, "And I can help you too..."
It's easy to go with it, working out a trade in real-time. But you are getting distracted from the task at hand when you do that! Stay focused on making this connection. Say this instead: "If this works out, all I ask is that you do the same for someone in the future. I just want to help you, and I want nothing in return."
It will likely baffle most, and in many cases will be a refreshing source of surprise and delight. Over time, you'll build up a lot of trust that way, and your network will explode with serendipitous introductions from others think quite warmly of you.
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