Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Make Your Network Links Strong Like Bull

If you use a tight networking strategy in LinkedIN or Facebook, you want strong links. But even in a broad networking strategy you’ll want a subset of your links to be strong….someone who will do you a favor if you ask, give you their time and help.

So how can you make your networking links "Strong Like Bull?" That doesn’t come easily, nor does it come cheaply. By not cheaply, I mean it takes time and effort.

So often, when we meet someone at a networking event, we collect a business card, and maybe follow up with a WWD email – What We Do. We email back, in an attempt to strengthen a connection, but end up just talking about ourselves. Compare that to dating…ever been on a first date when the other person spends the whole night talking about themselves? Did you enjoy yourself?

Most do the same online…just take a look at my Facebook wall and you’ll see lots people who send WWD.

How often do you follow up from a networking event, or a Social Networking connection by asking someone what you can do … FOR THEM? How often do you offer to give first, without asking for anything in return? We’re not used to it, because it feels like giving money to a sales clerk, without taking our merchandise…and who does THAT?

Is there a different analogy when you pay money, but get no hard goods in return? Could you think of networking as making a deposit in a bank - only it’s not money that’s building up in your account, it’s goodwill, or Business Karma.

The more Business Karma you build with someone, the more of a fan they become. If you’ve offered to give help to your in person network, as well as your online social network, just think of how big of a fan base you’ve built!

Personally, I try to build Business Karma daily, to a large extent through this blog, by letting “people crawl around inside my brain for awhile” as one very nice email response described. Before I wrote this blog, many of my readers who met me in person or through social networking heard me ask “How can I help you?”, or describing my job as “helping people, but my hobby is helping people find jobs”. But this blog isn’t about me…it’s about helping you.

I can tell you from personal experience that this kind of follow up isn’t easy. It takes time and effort to keep track of what others in your network need and can offer others, so that you can easily offer to help people. It takes patience not to talk about yourself and what you do, but to ask how you can help others. It takes a very broad view to be willing to give without expectation of return. I’ve found, however that this networking method provides returns many times greater than asking for business.

How can you strengthen your network in your job search? It goes against the common advice (seems like lots of things I say goes against common advice, doesn’t it? :) ) of telling everyone you’re looking for a job. Instead of telling the world about yourself, why not try asking about what’s important to the person you’re talking to?

It might just make you a more interesting and memorable conversation, and should serve to build Business Karma. Then after you’ve found a way to help someone and have offered help – then answer the other person’s question. Offer help first before you divulge that you’re looking for a job.

Do you think you’re more likely or less likely to find help and build a network that’s “Strong Like Bull”?

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Related Articles:
Achieve Enlightenment Through Networking Karma
Other articles about personal networking

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