I recently received an e-mail from someone who read an article I wrote about collaboration and working together. He said, “The type of networking you talk about describes the way things should work, but in the real world most people seem to have an attitude of what’s in it for me.” He asked, “How can I prevent wasting my time and efforts on people, only to find that they have this kind of attitude?”
The short answer to his question is this—stop hanging out with the wrong kind of people and start actively seeking out the right kind of people. Trust me, I’ve been there and done that when it comes to getting stuck with the wrong people and in order to move beyond that and build the kind of network that wants to help YOU (knowing that you also want to help them) is a journey—not a destination.
I have two suggestions to make finding the right networking partners easier. First, look for some of the signs relating to people who fit the profile of good networkers. They include:
- People who ask how they can help you or what they can offer you (and mean it), before they ask anything from you.
- Individuals who show that they are willing to work on creating a professional relationship over a period of time because they understand that they must develop credibility with you before asking for your business or your referrals.
- Those who make the time to go beyond the normal business interactions with those from whom they want to be able to ask for support.
- Professionals who understand that networking is more about farming than hunting and show it in their actions by making the effort to get to know you outside of the business environment whenever possible, knowing that the more of a friendship there is between you, the more expectations you can both have from each other’s networking efforts.
- People who do what they can to bring business and contacts to you and their other networking partners, who share pertinent information with you, and invite you to business meetings that’ll position you favorably with others you need to get to know.
- Individuals who give of their time and knowledge in order to help their referral sources succeed.
Second, immerse yourself in the process of relationship building.
A network that is a mile wide and an inch deep is not a strong network. Create a personal network that is both wide and deep. Meeting with people regularly is the key to making this happen. Participate in networking groups where you are going to see the same people on a regular basis. This will help you develop relationships and screen out the what’s in it for me networkers.