By: Debra Feldman
When it comes to holiday networking, ’tis always better to give than to receive.
It’s the perfect time to arrange introductions to the people you’d like to know. But even more, it’s a great time to focus on how you can help others rather than just focusing on your own networking needs. Think about how you can help rather than what you stand to gain. After all, the most successful networkers make it a point to find ways to help others, suggesting assistance and offering support before it’s even asked.
The most reliable networking strategy promotes good relationships by concentrating on giving more and expecting less. Find ways to surprise people by offering assistance before they ask. This generosity not only demonstrates good intentions, but is sure to delight the recipient, create good interpersonal chemistry and generate a desire to return the favor.
Yes, it is better to give.
Relationships are cemented and continue to thrive (and keep delivering exponentially increasing referrals) when both sides enjoy benefits and value. Productive networking is relationship-driven not transaction-oriented. This time of year offers many occasions to nurture relationships, create lasting positive impressions, get on the radar and be remembered for your remarkable assistance. It’s a wonderland of fresh prospects and contact renewals. The many corporate events, social occasions and community celebrations offer myriad giving opportunities to establish connections, strengthen ties, invigorate relationships and share ideas. Don’t be hesitant to extend invitations – whether or not they are accepted, it’s a way to connect and let others know that you are thinking of them.
Almost any neighborhood, family or business gathering can produce a conversation with someone who has information you can mine unobtrusively for leads to new career opportunities for yourself and those you know. With so many parties to choose from, select the ones with the best opportunity to reach your networking goals: a high probability for face time with individuals to whom you want to show your potential value proposition, unique talents and interests.
These encounters could be your big break to:
- Chat with current or former employees at your target companies
- Exchange business cards with an industry leader
- Arrange a future meeting with someone difficult to reach.
Brief interactions can be springboards to great relationships if you find ways to provide support and thereby sustain the connection. In the future, you will be one of the lucky few with critical inside information, access and support because you are recognized as a giver, not just a taker.
Want to enhance your networking efficiency to generate even better results? Prepare thoroughly in advance, anticipate questions and have well-thought-out and concise responses prepared. Be ready to make clear, compelling points to attract attention, pique curiosity and put you top of mind. Your delivery has to be attention-grabbing to overcome interruptions and compensate for a lack of privacy. Listen actively so you are apt to pick up on a need you can address and keep up your end of the discussion. Don’t forget to come armed with business cards with your contact information. To stand out, add a few bullet points depicting your interests and areas of expertise or other memorable data on the reverse side of the card. This includes qualities like coining a phrase, penning a jingle, being named to President’s circle X times, saving percentage annually or being known as Mr./Ms. ABC.
To further increase your networking effectiveness, attend gatherings where you will feel comfortable and put your best foot forward. Avoid situations where you might be stressed, rushed or distracted from your networking mission: meaningful conversations that leave a strong, positive impression. Picking up insider-only knowledge, connecting those you know to each other and optimizing purposeful networking contacts all ladder up to your goal. One of the best ways to be a helper is to connect people. It is often more enjoyable as well as more effective if you partner with a buddy. You can introduce each other as an icebreaker to start new relationships and keep a conversation flowing.
In conclusion, remember to stay focused. To reap the full benefits of networking purposefully, you must be alert and stay sharp. Don’t overindulge in food or beverages. Conduct yourself professionally at all times. Dress conservatively. The ROI is simple. Just one meaningful dialogue creates measurable value from every networking event. It’s the quality not the quantity of relationships developed, pursued or renewed. Holiday networking targeted to giving and helping is good career management that produces networking benefits throughout the new year. Remember that it is not just what you know and whom you know, but who knows what you know that produces new opportunities in today’s job market.
Happy holidays, happy giving and happy networking!
Debra Feldman, JobWhiz, is an executive talent agent who accesses opportunities in the hidden job market by personally developing inside connections for her clients. Forbes labeled her Matchmaker: Part sleuth, Part networker.