Guest post contributed by Marta Segal Block, Editor of GrouponWorks.
We may think of social networking as a new Internet-driven thing, but the truth is that networking, the art of utilizing people you know to help you find what you need, much like matchmaking, has been around for a long time.
What people frequently misunderstand about networking is that successful networking isn’t necessarily about what you can do for someone, or about your connections. Instead, it’s helping people find the people who can help them.
If you think about it, your good friend probably shares a lot of your experiences and connections. But he probably doesn’t know your former work acquaintance. Good networking isn’t about connecting your good friend to another good friend, it’s about connecting people who otherwise wouldn’t be connected. Take these examples:
- A former co-worker asked me if I knew of anyone who might be interested in taking on a leadership role in her new organization. I didn’t know anyone, but introduced her to two other people I thought might know someone. One of those people gave her some suggestions about where to look, the other offered to pass her information along to a third person.
- At the end of a conversation, I mentioned a need I had to a business acquaintance. She put me in touch with someone she thought could help. That person put me in touch with others who could help. One of those people actually couldn’t help, but instead, connected me with someone he knew. That person, three steps removed from my original connection, is going to help me (and help himself in the process).
Notice, none of the people in the above situations knew each other very well. We were connecting each other not with our best friends or closest coworkers, but with those outside of our circle.
In improv comedy there’s a rule that you never say “no” on stage. If you say “no”, the scene ends. The same is true of networking. If you want to be helpful to people and expand your connections and theirs, you don’t say “no, I can’t help” or “I don’t know,” you say, “I can’t think of anything, let me ask my friend. She might know.”
Sometimes, you really might not be able to help and might not know anyone who can help either, but you can still offer a suggestion or tip. Good networking, whether social or business related, isn’t about who you know, it’s about what you’re willing to do.
Marta Segal Block is the editor of the GrouponWorks blog for small business owners. She is a social media and content marketing consultant who specializes in strategy, execution, and branding work. You can read more of her work on Advice from Marta or follow her on Twitter at @MartasAdvice.
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