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Five Counterintuitive Lessons In High-Powered Networking

Source | FastCompany : By Brandon Stapper

I was just 20 when I started my first company. I knew I’d have to network in order to succeed, but I felt nervous and awkward at networking events. So I decided to brush up on my skills in that department.

Getting my company off the ground was as slow and arduous a process as getting the hang of high-power networking. But my company has since hit the million-dollar mark; plus, I’ve founded several others and in the process have become good friends with mentors, clients, and partners—all of whom I’ve met through networking.

You might not find them in a career counselor’s playbook, but these are a few of the networking strategies I’ve found to work for me.

1. BE THE DUMBEST PERSON IN THE ROOM—AT FIRST

Don’t be afraid to be the youngest or least knowledgeable person in the room. Rather than feign experience and expertise you don’t have (that never works), take some of the most influential people you meet at your next networking event out to lunch.

And whatever you do, don’t expect that it pay off immediately. As an entrepreneur with a great idea, a changing market, and limited funding, you may hear the clock ticking and think you need to win the support of movers and shakers right away. But you probably won’t. So do some networking simply to learn. After all, the things you learn can accumulate exponentially and may wind up paying off more in the long run than any “deal” you might want to land.

2. GIVE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN, THEN GIVE SOME MORE

Few people network when there’s absolutely nothing they need or want. But networking still worthwhile in the meantime. So be generous. I love to help others improve their companies and lives. If I can make a great introduction, recommend a book that’s helped me, or even donate some of my company’s products, I always try to. And when I do, I rarely ask for anything in return.

Many people you’ll meet while networking are too aggressive; they only want to sell you something. What they should do instead is think long-term about building a relationship—and that takes giving freely and generously, time and again. When you focus on enriching others’ lives first and hitting your own goals second, it can ultimately pay off much better.

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