In the business community (especially here at the Chamber), it can sometimes feel like the word “networking” is overplayed at Adele levels.
However tiresome it may be, there’s no question that being a good networker is extremely valuable to your business. But for those who are looking for a challenge, why not try to take your networking skills to the next level?
Be a Connector.
A Connector is, essentially, a Networking MVP. Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, describes them as people who are “always able to help — or if they can’t, they know someone who can. You meet them for the first time and in 15 minutes, you’re talking with them like you’re childhood friends. They’re successful, smart and funny, with a likable touch of self-deprecation. And they’re interested in everything.” They have the ability to span different worlds, cultures, and areas of expertise, and are “insatiably curious and willing to step outside their comfort zone.”
Wow. Sound like you?
Yeah, me either. But don’t worry – even if you weren’t born with a superhuman level of charisma, it is entirely possible to train yourself to be one of these legendary contact connoisseurs.
1. Don’t be afraid to venture outside your comfort zone. This may seem obvious, but conquering your fear of the unknown will lay the foundation for future opportunities. “You need to get out and make connections outside of your own world. Being interested in lots of different things by definition allows you to be a connector.”
2. Stop just blindly signing up for things with “Networking” in the title. As in all things in life, seek quality over quantity. “Joining clubs and organizations is a terrific way to find like-minded people, but only go when you have an interest…join organizations that focus on the events and activities you love.” It may help to make your interactions a lot more natural, and result in better quality contacts.
3. Give a little, get a little. “Perhaps one of the most important attributes of a connector is a willingness to help and to reach out even if there is no obvious or immediate payback.” Even though you may not see anything in it for you, remind yourself that what goes around, comes around.
4. But, on the flip side of that, don’t give away all of your secrets. “Helping others out doesn’t mean you can’t hold some things back..learn to share, but also protect your own interests”. It’s business, after all.