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What is the ROI on networking?

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Networking. The dreaded term. The act, we all put on. Some better than others. Some just plain hideously. And when I say hideously I don’t mean without skill. I mean intending payback.

We all know people who call themselves good “networkers”—shake so-and-so’s hand while walking into dinner, name-drop “My good friend, Mr. Blah Ba Blah” mid-conversation, get invited to events based on relationships, claw themselves up up up the social and professional ladder—with drive.

THIS is NOT good networking. This is transparent, false, superficial, yeah-we-totally-know-where-your-real-intentions-lie-honey kind of behavior. The key being—they expect a return on investment. And THAT FACT completely disables human connection.

It’s a lonely affair this “networking.” And, from my perspective, an empty use of life.

One of my friends, Grace Boyle, is no such “networker,” although her social and professional network far exceeds that of ten of my other friends combined. I’ve spent some time studying her—her social and professional relationships— and here is where she is both brilliant and unstoppable. Grace gives without the expectation of return. She gives work to a struggling graphic designer, “just to help out.” She gives rides to her carless and pregnant friend, “because she needs me.” She gives advice, time, recommendations, introductions, wisdom, hugs, love, inspiration, tools, lessons, short-cuts, make-all-better-aid. She gives and gives and gives. And never, ever expects anything back. Grace changes lives… because that’s just her nature, nothing more.

An altruist is a natural and superior “networker.”

I’m no Grace Boyle, but here is what she and other relationship building rock stars have taught me:

1.     Step outside your comfort zone to make new connections. Sign up for that meetup. New friend wants you to come over for a barbeque? Your “errands” can wait.

2.     Help, even when it’s a pinch. Your ounce could very well be their waterfall.

3.     Help anyone. Even if they don’t own a startup or have a bunch of letters at the end of their name. Bill Gates was a nobody, too, once.

4.     Do your homework and remember details. Find a system of remembering titles, kids names, city or origin, favorite restaurant. People like to feel significant. They’ll never forget YOU if you remember what makes THEM tingle.

5.     Set others up for success—know a Harry who might love a Sally? Hook ‘em up. A writer who needs a client or a job? It just takes an email intro.

6.     Keep contact information (in a disaster-proof place) and dive in to create solutions, connections, smiles.

7.     Stay in constant contact. There is no such thing as “free” time. You must MAKE TIME for important people.

8.     Any dummy can fulfill requests. A superior people-person unpredictably acts in kindness.

9.     Ask questions—delivering a monologue is as uninteresting as it is ineffective.

10. Appreciate, appreciate, appreciate. “Thanks” is not enough. If some act of kindness moved you, allow yourself to become vulnerable and express why.

When I grow up, I hope to be like Gracie. But until then, I will simply mimic her. Forever in awe of and moving towards embodying the genuine altruist, and (by default) the superior networker.

Filed in networking relationship career professional giving connection

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