Think about the word “networking”, and close your eyes for a minute. What kind of image comes to mind? I picture some sort of high flying mega-networker at big parties, fairs or events slinging their business card around with a dashing smile to everyone who comes by. Honestly, this person is someone that I don’t know how to be. If you’re reading this, then you may not feel like that high-flying networking hotshot yourself.
We’re here to tell you that it’s officially ok to feel like this, and that there are some simple little networking secrets that totally change the game.
A lot of us would like to be better at networking. Maybe you’re actually a social person, but you just aren’t sure about the nuances of growing and maintaining a large circle of professional acquaintances. Maybe you’re just downright shy and find the whole scene totally awkward. The point is that many of us, no matter where we fall on that scale, aren’t sure how to be that card slinging dude who effortlessly knows everyone.
The good news is that networking isn’t just about having rockstar mingling skills. There’s so much more to it than small talk and handing out business cards. (Don’t get me wrong, I love handing out business cards even though they aren’t super cool atm. Anywho...)
Ok, so hold onto your seat. Here are the only two things that actually matter when it comes to good networking. AKA, 2 simple little networking secrets!
- If you know how to do something, don’t hesitate to help people with that when you can.
2. When you need help yourself, don’t hesitate to ask for it.
It’s actually that simple!
The best networkers are the people who are most ready to help their own network. If you know how to do content marketing, give a few tips to a friend who just started their own business on a budget. If you can write a bit of code, you can help an old colleague when he needs help with a busted embed for his next blog.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that you should do work for free, it’s more about helping out with the little things.
Personally, I love to help out people in my network, and I am most willing to help out with something that I do as a hobby. By the way, I don’t give away my key competence for free. At Kumous we certainly condone getting paid to do that thing you do.
That said, the way that you help out can be really small or basic. Personally, I like to help people find homes and apartments. In Helsinki, the housing situation is really tight. Some might say it’s easier to jump through a burning hoop of fire than it is to find a place to live. I have a knack for fishing the right gem out of the endless sea of online housing classifieds, and I’ve helped a lot of people in my network to find the right place. I am not a realtor, it’s just something that I can help out with and that I enjoy sharing. Can you think of a skill or hobby you have that could be useful in helping your own network?
The idea isn’t just to help people who will benefit you later on, but to build a sort of networking karma. When you know that you have been willing to help people out in the past, it makes it easier to ask for favors. You know that you’ve made your contribution and been generous with your own time in the past.
Many people also think of networking as a form of nepotism. In my ideal world, I don’t recommend that anyone should land a job just because “they know someone”. Getting a job is about competency and not simply “who knows who”. That’s why good networking is all about lending your know-how to your network and letting your many competencies shine.
When you are the one who needs help, let your network know that a can-do person such as yourself is looking for a new job. If you have already taken the first step of helping out your network in the past, then asking is pleasant and easy. You can confidently hand in that “good samaritan ticket” (and you’re all set to gleefully receive the goodness you have coming to you!)
The bottom line is that many of us would benefit from brushing up on our networking skills, but that doesn't just mean getting better at chit chat. It means learning how you can help others and then actually doing it.
We all have a network, and shouldn't focus on just growing it artificially. Try to make a genuine connection with the people in your network, and show them how competent you are by helping out where you can.
The biggest thing is just asking for help. If you have been able to help others out in the past, then you will find that the asking part just comes naturally and feels better. So do yourself a favor, and help someone out today!