Networking. It’s a pretty intimidating word.
You’re at a happy hour. You’re tired from a long day but thought you better show up so you don’t miss out on rubbing shoulders with important people in the industry. It’s a fancy place, the vibe is kind of pretentious, everyone is wearing business-y clothes and fake laughing while they make small talk. You pretend to be really interested in whatever your co-worker is saying, but out of the corner of your eye you watch to see when the CEO of that firm you want to apply to gets another drink so you can swoop in and exchange business cards.
I’ve been in this scenario one too many times and let me tell you – it’s exhausting. This is what I thought networking was like until I started Be Real and had a revelation: All networking is, is building relationships. It is making friends with people doing cool sh*t that you admire, respect and want to be a part of. It’s not about small talk or “getting in” with the higher-ups. It’s about making genuine connections.
If you’ve ever struggled with this problem, keep reading! I’m about to break down the single most important networking advice I’ve ever heard and I promise, it’s good.
*drum roll please*
Or in the words of Mina Salib from Episode 22: Live to Give and Connect abundantly.
Let me explain: Scenario One paints a picture that implies networking is all about using other people for your own personal gain. So you enter interactions thinking: what can I get out of this connection, how can this person help me, what do I have to gain from this person?
However, when you enter interactions with a giving mindset, you think: what do I have that I can offer this person, what is this person struggling with, how can I help them out, how can I add value to their life?
This changes the game entirely. You go from small talk or discussing what each of you do, to finding out what the other person is struggling with and seeing how you can help. Boom! Instantly more substantial conversation > deeper connection > better relationship.
“Whatever you can give to people, just give it to them. And don’t expect anything in return.”
– Mina Salib, Founder of Usspire, Be Real Episode 22
Once you’ve shifted your mindset to anticipating how you can give to someone rather than what you can gain from them, the next step is actually doing it.
This isn’t easy for everyone and it’s not that natural to work questions like “What are you struggling with right now?” into a conversation. My advice is to just get to know each other a bit, find out what they’re working or what they’ve been thinking about doing but haven’t started yet and see how you can offer your talents to help them make it better. This could be technical skills like design, coding, writing, etc. Or something as simple as offering feedback on a blog post, website layout, photograph or anything else they’ve created. No matter how little your experience or skills, your opinion is still valuable and everyone could always use an outside perspective. Another thing you can do is volunteer your time, my guest in episode 22, Mina Salib explains how volunteering at events he was interested in, or helping out entrepreneurs he admired led to great relationships and a job at the NYU School of Engineering Incubator.
So let’s review:
When entering into networking situations whether that’s at a happy hour, at work, in a big group, meeting one-one-one or more…look for what you can GIVE to the person you are trying to connect with rather than what you can GAIN.
You can do this by
- Offering your skills
- Offering your feedback/opinion
- Offering your time
- Anything else you think of!
“Never pick business or money over relationships”
- Mina Salib, Founder of Usspire, Episode 22
Ultimately, everything comes down to relationships. You can’t do business or make money in a vacuum, you're always going to have to deal with people. So when you focus on key relationships, expand your network and build a community of inspiring, motivated people around you – the business and money will happen. So live to give and you will create lasting connections.