We are all well-acquainted with the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. While not wholly true, you definitely can’t discount the impact having connections can make for you. But the thing that’s less talked about is how do you actually make those connections?
Dorie Clark of the Wall Street Journal shares some thoughts, including addressing people who avoid networking because it makes them feel manipulative. In short, if you don’t want to feel bad about networking, don’t go into the conversation with the end goal of asking for a favor.
Clark recommends networkers focus on building connections rather than searching for people who can give you things. In fact, you may even want to start off by being the one doing the offering to others.
One way to start a conversation is if you see a professional looking for advice about something related to your field. That can be the moment needed to begin forging a connection.
Another thing to consider is whether you have developed a connection in person or on LinkedIn, give the relationship time to grow. Initially you want to focus on actually getting to know each other, the same as you would with a friend or colleague.
If you just come right out and ask for a favor then it can make all your initial friendliness just seem like an orchestrated preamble leading to you wanting something from them. You might even want to set a rule for yourself to refrain from asking for anything for around a year.
The takeaway is that networking takes time. If you want a long-term connection and not just some one-off gift then treat this like a human interaction as the priority.
Having to wait to ask for anything might seem disappointing, but not if you are also focusing on building other professional connections. Just like with friendships, you are looking for natural opportunities to find common ground. If that happens often enough, eventually asking for something will feel much more comfortable rather than exploitative.
To learn more on how to improve your networking strategies, read the Wall Street Journal’s article here.
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