"Networking" is one of those buzz words that connotes images of looking-over-their-shoulder business types trying to figure out how to score a deal by "working the room". Artificial, plastic, phony and downright irritating, both to the participants and those who somehow feel roped into the yukkiness.
Perhaps some of this negativity is because of the association with "network marketing," the nicer world for multi-level marketing, where "downlines" are recruited with the lure of wealth and easy money, which virtually no one sees or experiences.
Of course there is a better approach to networking, and it takes a relatively simple attitude change. The goal in any networking event is NOT to sell anything -- it is to give. Your entire function at the networking event is to learn about the other person and then, if at all possible, deliver value to the individual, perhaps with a referral, some useful information, or simply a listening ear.
Most importantly, while you won't turn down any business you happen to receive in the process -- and you likely will receive some -- your goal is not to give anything with even the slightest bit of "return" expectation. This is not a give-and-take exercise. This is pure "give".
The attitude change, expressed on a wider scale, has powerfully positive impact. First, you no longer need to dread the networking event, because your success measure is not how many leads you acquire, but how many people you can help, and how much you can assist each individual. With this attitude, it is obviously impossible to fail. There is no "qualification," no worry about whether you have a real business interest in the other person in front of you; you are simply there to help out as much as you can, with sincerity, enough time to care, and enough ability to meet people who you can assist.
The second positively powerful impact is that, as you enrich yourself by learning about others and helping them as much as you can, some people will really want to help you in return. This is the law of reciprocation. Little good deeds invite sometimes really big positive responses. The fact you are acting without worrying about the reciprocation, however, indicates sincerity and while some people will certainly take advantage of your generosity, overall, most will be responsive and do what they can to help in return. (Over time, you'll get to know the pure 'takers' and you can, rightfully, spend less time with them -- not to push them away, but simply because you'll have plenty of other people to meet and know.)
In case you are wondering, the great ideas here are not mine. Tim Klabunde has written a book on the topic and it is turning into something of an Amazon best seller, in part because of his incredibly large network.
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