Your BREAK THROUGH, Vol. 1, Post 24

For the longest time, I misunderstood networking.  The thought of going to a young professionals mix and mingle happy hour, working the room, handing out business cards, making small talk, and stumbling around like the awkward turtle that I am, made me nervous, anxious, and simply, kept me from attending. I have plenty of friends and colleagues who love these events.  Their business cards disappear fast; their Facebook pages are bursting at the seams with friends; they seem to know everybody, everywhere.

Let me be very clear: this is great for them.  It works for them.  And it might work for you.  But if it doesn’t, or if you’re looking for a new approach, I encourage you to consider what it means to “build connection.”

You might first notice some nuance here.  I didn’t say “make a connection” (or several hundred). That’s what happens at networking events, during a chance encounter while sitting at a Colorado micro-brewery, or while standing in line at Sprouts. What follows making that connection is what matters.

“Building connection” means that these following steps will unfold and deepen over time …

1) Take a genuine interest in other people.  What are they contributing to society?  What talents and skills do they bring to the table? What makes them tick? Understand a connection’s passion.

2) Don’t be afraid to reciprocate that passion.  When appropriate, when asked, share with others your passions, your excitement for the world. Leave them intrigued and inspired by what you do.

3)  Stay in touch.  With your genuine and quality professional connections, make the effort to meet-up once a month, once a season, once a year.  As long it’s consistent, it doesn’t have to be everyday. Talk about your passions again, discuss your current projects, brainstorm potential areas of collaboration.

4) Ask them for help. Most of us love to help others.  We feel good about giving advice, sharing ideas, and putting our talents to use. By asking a new or long-time connection for ideas about how to overcome a challenge you’re facing, you make that person feel genuinely useful.

5) Be ready, once again, to reciprocate. The phone rings. It’s the connection you haven’t heard from in six months. “Hey,” they start, “I’m working on this project … can you help?” Give them the time they deserve. They have helped you in the past, so give them as much time and effort as they gave you.

6) Stay in touch. Yes, I am repeating #3.  Remember those 100 people you met at that meet and greet?  Were you able to stay in touch with all those business cards?  Probably not.  But likely, you have a half dozen, or a dozen, colleagues and connections that really matter.  You’ve both put time in, but life and work overwhelm us. Don’t let those quality connections go … keep building that connection.

7) And in the words of Barney Stinson “… wait for it!” No, really, wait for it. We heard we were suppose to go to networking events to make connections which would lead to potential job opportunities.  But nothing has panned out so far. It’s hopeless! Wait a second, how long have you been waiting? How much effort have you put in to building quality connections? Wait for it. You might be laying the groundwork for something that might not play out for a year or two, or even a decade.

And if you’ve built true connection, you’re not really waiting anyway. Quality connection is reward enough.