Networking is a great way to make contacts for jobs, volunteer opportunities and friendships. As a freelancer, I’ve found a lot of value in networking with potential clients or editors, but also with colleagues to share war stories, pass along referrals, ask for advice, etc. In this way, networking becomes a lot less about me and more about the people I’m networking with.
Sara Horowitz, founder of Freelancers Union, concurs in the Freelancer’s Bible. Instead of looking at networking in terms of what you can get out of it, think of what you can offer to the people you meet. This puts you in a totally different mindset, creating a giving environment rather than one of taking.
I love this approach! I am much more comfortable in the role of “how can I help you?” than I am with “what can you do for me?” This sets you apart from other networkers who are only looking for their next client or sale. Instead of being needy, you come across as a helpful resource rather than a vulture.
Before you attend your next networking event, grab a stack of business cards and think of ways you can benefit your new contacts. Here are some suggestions:
1) Offer to make virtual introductions where appropriate.
2) Share resources or ideas.
3) Learn more about their business so you can pass that info along when it might be helpful to others.
The next time you’re networking – online or off – set your own needs aside. We could all use a little help from our friends!