Welcome to our newest weekly series, Pro Tip! In this series, we’ll be sharing expert advice on hot-button career issues that are a part of our day-to-day lives—issues like productivity, funding, budgeting, and being a good boss.
Today, we’re sharing tips on an often-misunderstood matter: Networking. Whether you’re self-employed or climbing the corporate ladder, we all feel the pressure to “network” our way to the top. But to become a networker who generates leads instead of a desk full of other people’s business cards takes one simple ethos:
Networking is about giving.
It isn’t about reaching out only when you want or need something or seeing how many people you can “connect” with on LinkedIn. Networking is about actively helping others and genuinely wanting to do it.
See, when you’re consistently networking and providing your skills and knowledge to other people, you’ll find you will rarely need to ask for help because the power of giving is infectious. People want to help people who help them and if the people you’re investing your time into aren’t sharing the love - then it’s time to find some new people.
Here are a few tried and true habits for being an active and giving networker.
How can I help?
Every time I connect with someone new the first question I like to ask is, “How can I help?” You’d be surprised how often it catches people off guard. “You want to help me?" Of course I do.
When we offer to help we open a door, we make a friend and we learn something new. It’s also where the true connection begins because it creates the opportunity to make an impact on someone else. As the old cliche goes, by helping others we help ourselves.
Sometimes all it takes is meeting the right person to take a project to the next level. If you have a connection who’s looking for what someone in your network can provide - connect them. If you think two of your connections would be better simply by knowing each other - connect them. If you think an introduction could lead to some new business for someone in your network - CONNECT THEM. No matter what the reason, help others expand their networks by offering to make introductions for the people whose work you believe in.
Offer your time
Our most valuable asset is time and when you offer it to others, it goes farther than any other networking tip I can give you. Especially if you’re self-employed, you’re not only the sole representative of your business but you’re the sole proofreader, manager, marketer, designer, advisor and everything else in between. Offer up your time to help review assets or be a sounding board to people who are in similar positions to you and build your community.
How many of us feel defeated every time we post something about our business on social media and NO ONE responds to it the way we imagined they would? Be the person who does. Stay present and actively engage with the things people in your network are sharing about their business and ideas. Share their content with your own audience.
Beyond social media, continue to be in people’s lives and follow up consistently. Share articles to topics you think would benefit them, set up a coffee meet-up with another person in your network, and keep practicing these techniques to help make yourself a consistently active and giving networker.
About the author: Audrey Adair is a seasoned freelance communications professional and founder of ‘The Scope’ - a platform providing resources and community to freelancers and the self-employed. Connect with The Scope on Instagram and join their email list to receive your free resource, The Freelancer Starter Kit.