As a business major during my undergrad years, I had my fair share of networking events. I even attended classes that taught business etiquette while networking. What’s the proper approach? How do you strike up conversation? What side of your shirt should you wear your nametag? No matter what industry you find yourself in, networking is very important. Why? Because the basic idea of networking is to build relationships that may lead to impactful opportunities and personal connections along the road.
In the early stages of my career, I didn’t see networking as something for others, I saw it as something for myself. For a while, I had a “how-can-you-help-me” approach to networking. Through experience, however, I found that networking should not be a “me-focused” endeavor, but should be about the other person that you are connecting with. Ultimately, it’s about building relationships, and no one likes being in a one-sided relationship. In order for a true relationship to be built, there needs to be a degree of reciprocity.
The shift in my mindset really took place several years ago, when I was working in a community outreach position for a church. The idea was to help the church connect to the community and allow the community to connect with the local church. This meant that a bulk of my duties included creating opportunities for the church to serve in the community and finding community resources that we could bring into the church to help the congregation as well. Needless to say, I was out in the community quite frequently attending community fairs, advisory councils, CAPS district meetings, and block parties. Wherever you go, you can find a need that people have. Their need could involve employment, civic affairs, education, housing, or another aspect of their lives.
There are nonprofits, social services and government agencies that help fund in specific needs, but if we are honest we can’t meet all the needs of the community with just one organization. We could try, but odds are, the more we broaden our scope the less effective we might become in what we truly do well. From these experiences I really came to grasp the importance of taking the “how-can-I-help-you” approach to networking. This shift from a “me” to a “we” approach, is necessary for healthy collaboration. I believe that in order to truly make an impact in our neighborhoods, communities, cities, and world, we must replace isolated attempts for change with collaborative efforts.
I have followed Dale Patridge for a few years now. In his book, People Over Profit, he makes the point of focusing on helping people rather than focusing on just profit. In other words, if you were to shift your mind-frame to, “how can I help one million people” instead of “how can I make million dollars,” you will most likely become successful because you a focusing on helping others (the consumers). As I transitioned into a new position at Family Bridges, I was tasked with helping to expand the organization into Phoenix. At the time we didn’t know many people there, nor did anyone know about us. So we did a lot of meeting and greeting, story-telling and selling, all by networking in the community with the mindset “how can we help?”
Looking to add value to others and cultivating relationships is the key to collaboration. This begins with a “we” approach to networking. So whether it’s networking for B2B or B2C, what mindset are you approaching others with? What are some ways that you could add value to those who you come in contact with? I truly believe that when people see that you are not just in it for yourself, but rather are eager to help and put others first, walls can come down, opportunities to collaborate can arise, and you might have some wonderful opportunities to great things that impact the world around you.
For blogs, tips and ideas about life and relationships, follow us @familybridges.