Try giving, not taking, when you do networking
It can be the one thing that helps you land that killer promotion or raises funds for a new business.
At networking events, the "serial" networkers are often seen moving from one person to the next, keeping the conversations short and handing out business cards to everyone they meet.
Most people will speak to another party just long enough to gauge whether there is something they stand to gain from them. If there isn't an identifiable benefit, they swiftly move on to the next person. They build connections only if there is something to be gained.
This approach to networking is not only distasteful but outdated.
Successful networking should be about what you can give, not what you can get from others. This approach is more effective in establishing healthy, long-lasting networking relationships.
The moment we shift our mindsets from what we stand to gain to what we stand to give, the networking experience becomes completely different. We listen more attentively and remain aware of the value that we can add to someone's life or business, instead of purely what they can do for us.
When we eventually take their contact details, it is not because we hope to use them for something that we need - it is because we hope to add value to them. The relationship is established on the backbone of value creation, not one-sided exploitation.
You might end up with fewer business cards , but the quality of the relationships you stand to build is much higher. That is because reciprocity is part of the human psyche - eventually, people do give back to those who add value to them.
This approach to networking makes it easier for others to refer you or recommend you to others because they can speak from a personal experience of when you added value to them. They speak more confidently about you from first-hand experience. People are far less likely to put their reputations on the line for someone they cannot personally vouch for.
Networking relationships that begin from a value-creation base are better positioned for long-term success because of the genuineness of the interest in building the relationship - unlike the self-interested networking relationships we commonly build today.
This is especially important for the success of a new venture because entrepreneurs are constantly in search of help from others - potential suppliers, customers, partners, investors and employees.
Unfortunately, when entrepreneurs go to networking events, they end up investing too much time trying to identify the people who can help them instead of showcasing the value others could gain from the entrepreneur or their new venture.
We are often encouraged to put ourselves out there and woo others into giving us the help we need to succeed.
This can be daunting for most people. However, if we reframe this and put ourselves out there because we want to find opportunities to add value to others, the task becomes far less daunting.
When I first came across networkers who were genuinely interested in giving rather than taking, it felt strange. This is mainly because we live in a world where we become suspicious of others when they are being kind to us.
When I overcome this initial scepticism and invest in the relationship, I find these connections much healthier than the relationships built on the basis of the traditional approach to networking.
There is an old saying about friendship which goes: "When I went outside to find friends, I could not find one. When I went outside to be a friend, friends were everywhere." This is similarly true in the world of networking.
It begins with being prepared to genuinely add value to the lives of other people.
Sikhakhane is an international speaker, writer and business adviser with an honours degree in business science from the University of Cape Town and an MBA from Stanford University
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