When you concentrate on what you can give, you fuel networking in its purest form as a reciprocal, cultivated relationship that reaps the best career karma—a term used by William Arruda and Kirsten Dixon in their brilliant book, Career Distinction. Never before is that connection so vibrant and varied than in today’s world where you can treat someone to a cup of tea at your favorite café; or introduce them via LinkedIn to a great lead halfway around the world.
The premise though, is give to get. Yes, you nurture and appreciate the support of champions. However, the most beneficial network relies on giving—not taking. Networking is not about on-the-surface connections just to suit your in-the-now needs. When clients tell me about hearing from someone after a five-year void — someone who now needs help — well, it generally leaves a bad taste. Think of your network as a social capital account. I’m not asking you to give constantly to a network of hundreds or more. I am asking you to grow value through thoughtful, sincere gestures on an as-regular-as-possible basis–with as many of those you care about as possible.
Research shows that we show our affection in several ways. Some folks prefer to say how they feel, while others may need to show it. Reflecting on how you best give—and how that might match with the person on the receiving end—can be a power in bringing that giving-to-get energy back around.
Say the good things on your mind! If you give someone an unexpected compliment, it can make his or her day. It can also go a long way in boosting someone’s self-confidence to succeed. And if said in front of others, it has even more impact. My client, Tony recently attended a corporate event and while there, voiced his admiration for colleague, Jane’s sense of humor. He meant every word. Others—senior leadership to office support—heard and murmured agreement. Jane was on cloud nine for the evening; and she told Tony months later how much it meant to hear them.
Do something nice for the heck of it! Some people are in their element doing little favors for others instead of talking about it. I’ve heard wonderful stories of acts of clients over the years. Ranging from paying it forward to helping an unemployed job seeker, to offering to bring lunch to a colleague swamped with work because of short staffing, caring gestures can speak volumes in making others feel valued.
Share more face-to-face moments! Studies show that simply being next to someone triggers brain chemicals that make a person feel more connected. This is a good argument for why it is so important to spend real time with those we care about. The research out of New York’s Stony Brook University reveals shared experiences release a blast of pleasant dopamine, which we then associate with the folks we’re with! Obviously, there are those people in your network with whom an online or more distant relationship is going to suffice. But think about those where enjoying a cup of coffee or glass of wine, strolling through a park, or participating in a local charity event or community initiative, can help you bond in an authentic way.
There are so many ways to give—from random acts of kindness, to just staying in touch and doing what feels to be right. None of us live in a vacuum. I am an absolute believer in the mantra of giving to get. I concur with Oprah Winfrey who said, “What I know for sure is that what you give comes back to you.” I see it happen on an almost-daily basis. Solid networking relationships are truly cultivated through mutually beneficial giving.
Something like this:
Giving = Healthy Networking, Relationships & Social Capital = Better You & Better World =