For years I resisted the whole idea of networking. My mental association was an image of Herb Tarlek, the consumate slick salesman, wearing white shoes and an insincere grin handing out business cards two at at time with instructions to his new acquaintances to pass the extra cards to people in their network (if you’re my age you remember Herb from WKRP in Cincinnati – if this doesn’t ring a bell, never mind).
Then I began playing on LinkedIn. It wasn’t intentional. A colleague sent me an invitation and I accepted just to be polite. I got off to a rocky start by connecting with people who saw me as a shortcut to booking a sales call at the Fortune 500 company I worked for. You know the type. They don’t make eye contact when you meet because they’re too busy scanning the room to see if there’s anyone more interesting hanging around.
I took a break from social networking for a while and then I read an article about paying it forward. I decided to give it a try and began viewing networking as a way to provide value to others rather than as a means to making a sale. Five years later I have over six hundred connections on LinkedIn and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many business people in my communities that I would not have met without these social networking platforms. I’ve helped people find web sites on emigrating to Canada, I’ve connected job seekers with recruiters at my company all over North America, and I’ve helped people polish their resume.
That’s where the value of networking lies. It’s in paying it forward and making connections with real people. And learning. Sites like LinkedIn facilitate sharing and learning within the global business community in an unintrusive and collaborative way.
So try networking from a different perspective. Think what you can bring to your network and get out there and deliver. The results will come in later.