Stop networking and focus on connecting
Networking is about knowing more people. Connecting is about knowing people more.
We all know lots of people professionally or personally, but we are only really connected with a small percentage of those people.
When you are at a business, social or charitable event, you will likely run into many people you know. But in many cases, you will know them “socially” or “professionally”, which is a way of saying you know them, who they are, but are not deeply connected with them and have no investment in their successes or failures. A good example of this is LinkedIn. You may have 2,000 people in your LinkedIn network but if you run through that list, you may find that you are only truly connected with 50-100 of those people.
True connections make up your community. They are the people with whom you have built a relationship based on mutual respect and trust. They may send you business referrals or you may be the person they ask for advice before they make a personal decision. True connections often cross the line between business and personal. If you build a great connection with a business contact, you may, for example, end up socialising with their family and yours.
So how do you go about building more connections? Learn how to talk about yourself in a meaningful, engaging and memorable way. If we want to build a mutually beneficial relationship with a person, we have to be clear about who we are, what we’re doing and how we could potentially help one another along the way. Figure out how to help and support the person that you are trying to connect with.
Focus on creating a mutual transfer of knowledge and information. Share success stories and discuss challenges that you both face. This may help you to find some common ground.
Don’t reach out to a contact and ask for a favour straight away. Get to know them first, demonstrate your potential and then do something of value for them. For example, offer to make a helpful introduction to someone in your network. Once you have done that, they will be more open to doing a favour for you at some point in the future.
Developing your connections may be a bit more difficult in the current environment so you may have to adapt your approach. For example – rather than meeting a contact for a drink after work, you may have to set up a virtual drink on Zoom or Skype. The key is to adapt your strategy and to give it a go. The more you try to build connections, the better you will get, over time.