What do you think of when you hear the word “networking?” Events you feel you should attend, even though you don’t want to? Initiating forced conversations with strangers? Maybe even exchanging business cards with someone, and then not knowing quite how to follow up?
If so, then it’s no surprise that the idea of networking during a recession can seem even more daunting since you and everyone else may want or need something.
It’s time to think about networking in a different way. To me, networking in a bad economy is no different from how people should network in a good economy. I call it “relationship networking,” focusing on 11 Laws you can follow to make networking a more authentic, enjoyable, and beneficial experience.
To practice this kind of networking you build relationships while you’re doing the things you want to do and in the places where you naturally are. It’s not about adding to your business card quota. It’s about adding value to your relationships; and what better time to do that than when people really need it?
Relationship networking is based on three mental shifts about networking:
1. From business to anything. Think differently about how you’re getting out there and who you’re connecting with. It doesn’t have to be all industry and recruiters; it could be a neighbor, a fellow hobbyist, or parents at your kids’ schools. This way, you already have things in common and you can leverage the Law of Similarity to strengthen the relationship.
2. From now to long term. This is the best part about networking during a recession. Add value to your network when they need it and it will be there for you when you need it.
3. From you to them. Instead of focusing on what you’re trying to get or what you need from the other person, think about what you can give. The Law of Giving is the single most important thing you can do to build a strong network. Give because you can, give first, give often – giving creates value.
Don’t sell yourself sort thinking you have nothing to offer another person. Here are three easy ideas for adding value.
1. INTRODUCE. Connecting two people is extremely valuable and typically beneficial to both parties. Let them know why you are putting them in touch. If the introduction is one-sided, be sure to ask permission first.
2. INVITE. Send an invitation about an event you are going to or even one you aren’t. Let them know why you think they might be interested. You can also create an event.
3. INFORM. Provide them with articles of information you think they will find valuable. It can be a review of a restaurant you both enjoy or a piece of business news. You are not just sending information; you are letting them know you were thinking about them.
Give first, and then there will come a time when you will want to ask for something. For example, you discover someone works for a company you are interested in. Go ahead and ask. Try, “I’d love to learn more about working there, can I take you out to lunch to talk about it?” You should always make it convenient for them and give them an out. You may add, “If this is a busy time of year, I completely understand.”
Redefine the way you approach networking not only during a bad economic times, but all the time. You will find Relationship Networking easier, more enjoyable and you will develop stronger, longer lasting relationships. Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about the relationship.