If you’re wondering how to be a good networker we should really talk. In this post I will share one of the most powerful tips for better networking in business – and, ironically, it’s the one most often overlooked.
The Key Characteristic of a Good Networker
Being good at networking is probably the most important way to build your business.
So what does it mean to be really good at networking? It takes many things, each of which I will cover in future posts. But what’s the one attribute that all successful networkers have in common:
They volunteer with organizations they care about – they give of themselves. They are visible in their community.
Successful Networking in Business Means Putting Yourself Out There
It’s interesting that volunteering – an attribute of any successful networker – has nothing to do with attending networking events. I’m talking about those sometimes awkward and endless events where we try to mingle and chat meaningfully with people we don’t know as we balance our drink in one hand, nibble cheese with the other while simultaneously receiving and passing business cards. Volunteering, however, has everything to do with giving of yourself – to your community, to a nonprofit or cause that you’re passionate about. And expecting nothing in return. The irony is that you usually get lots in return. Way more than you give.
Some ways to volunteer? Consider joining a board or a committee. Run for local office, often unpaid. Volunteer at your local food bank or homeless shelter. But first take time to consider what causes are important to you – how you can make a difference using your skills, experience, and time.
I’m certainly not suggesting you volunteer solely as a networking tactic. I’m saying that often a natural consequence of people getting to know you, of seeing you in action away from the workplace, as a volunteer, giving of yourself, showing your passion for something beyond yourself – is likely to result in people regarding you more favorably. And people hire people they “Know-Like-Trust.” This is what successful networking is all about.
Conversely, people will also notice if your primary focus while volunteering or at the proverbial networking event is aggressively distributing your business card, looking for introductions, and not listening.
What kind of reputation do you want? A superficial person more interested in promoting herself? Or a committed, dependable leader who gives of her time and talent, expecting nothing in return?
And who are you more likely to hire when you need someone with your skills?
People will remember you when they see you in volunteer positions. And when you have a track record and reputation for getting involved, giving of yourself, and doing a good job – your business will likely reap the benefits. It just works that way.
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