In the rush to capitalize on opportunities, connect with everyone we can, grow our businesses and leverage our influence at every turn, we can forget the basic truth: a widening circle of influence is about genuine connection.
People will never come to trust you and respect what you have to say if they sense you see them as a means to an end. A classic narcissist uses people as what psychologists call “narcissistic supplies” and discards them without a second thought when they cease to be useful. Some people see networking as a similar kind of exploitation.
Networking adds value to successful people’s businesses through a continual dance of give-and-take. In many cases, real friendships form and business contacts become people who really matter, regardless of their benefit to your bottom line. Those connections will provide you with an ever-growing circle of people who recommend you to others because they’ve seen your work, your strength, your sense of purpose, your reliability over time, and they believe in you.
Now that I’ve established myself as a legal expert, most of the broadcast bookings I get these days come from producers and bookers I’ve worked with on shows dating back to my early days as a guest on Dr. Phil. Any time I’m on a show, I always make it a point to get to know and engage the producers. I try to make their jobs easier by being a good source of information and providing more than what’s asked of me on a story or segment. In return, as those producers and bookers move on to new positions, I am often the first person they call on their new show. From cable news to daytime syndicated shows, I can now count on booking shows with producers I have worked with. I have even been a part of major TV pilots where I’ve met cameramen, associate producers and high-level executives who are willing to vouch for me. This is networking that truly adds value. Wherever your job takes you, be as gracious and accommodating as you can to everyone you encounter — you never know when someone you meet will be in a position to help you later.
This type of networking is not based on glib conversation at a cocktail party and exchanging cards. It’s not a face-to-face pitch: “Hi, Rhonda, let me tell you something I’m doing that you might be interested in.” This is way beyond that.
When you make a real connection, you engage people and cultivate ongoing relationships with them. This isn’t something you casually come to. You have to make a conscious decision to create an enriching circle of trusted relationships. You have to study the culture of the environment and adapt. You can’t have your own, selfish agenda — that will never work. To network right takes planning and preparation. You’ve got to get out there in the mix and stay engaged to make it work. But setting out to make great connections is not the same as setting out to exploit people. The only people who will warm to that are the ones who’ll do the same thing to you. Those aren’t the people you want to get to know better.
When it’s working best, connection, like friendship, is a seamless process of continually giving and receiving. You make contact with valuable new people, then put those people in contact with one another. As you share your time and expertise with them freely, the pie gets bigger for everyone.
People haven’t yet caught on to the power of generosity but when you help more people, you find there’s more help available for you. Don’t keep score. It’s not like that. Just make a determined effort to meet people who may be great connections and bring a spirit of generosity.
Not everyone you approach will respond as you hope. Everyone has stories of failed attempts to make connections. Don’t let that hold you back. It’s par for the course. In the end, the more valuable connections you make, the more opportunities will come your way at critical moments.
Adapted from Make It Rain!: How to Use the Media to Revolutionize Your Business & Brand by Areva Martin. Used with permission from Center Street, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.