The Biggest Networking Mistake

Sarah (not her real name) had just received a kick-in-the-gut career wake up call – the kind we all pray never happens. She had 60-days to find something new. Perhaps it was her fault, perhaps not. These situations are prickly. The grapevine was buzzing with rumors when what she needed was connections.

“Do you want me to take a look at your LinkedIn profile?” I offered. I didn’t want to overstep my bounds, but also felt compassion for an old colleague. Silence. “I don’t have one,” she admitted.

Not wanting to discourage, I tried another angle. “What professional contacts do you have outside the company?”

More silence. She had invested long and deep in her networking at work. She had mentors and sponsors, but such networks are tightly woven, and can unravel 27 times faster than they took to build.

Sarah was suffering from the networking mistake I see repeated over and over again across generations and industries: waiting to build a network until you “need it.”

There’s power in building your network without intention.

The Power of “Just Because” Networking

The most powerful networking tool is quite simple. Just show up and genuinely help everyone you can in as many circles as possible. Not because they can help you now, or even some day – but because you’re a human being and you have something to offer another human being. That’s it.

Call it karma, call it common sense. It works.

Yesterday, I received three calls out of the blue from folks I had helped, or connections of folks I had helped.

None of these relationships were started because I thought they could help me some day. On the surface, all of these loose ties had less “position” power than me.

As it turns out, two of the three will lead to cool opportunities that have the magical feeling of “falling from the sky.” The third was from an executive recruiter with an enormous offer that would have been highly attractive had I not just quit my day job to pursue my dream.

She had heard about me because good people know good people. I hadn’t talked to that good person who mentioned my name for years, and what I had done for her was very small. Guess who I referred that recruiter to? Yup, a good person who helps others just because.

JUST BECAUSE NETWORKINGTips For Just Because Networking

  • Treat everyone you meet with dignity and respect.
  • Accept all LinkedIn invitations (unless they’re really creepy: Side rant – LinkedIn is not a dating service).
  • Offer to help first.
  • Never ask for help on the first connection.
  • Plant bulbs of support everywhere. Just because you can.

Thanks to LGL community member Larry Coppenrath for creating the visual of today’s post.

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Posted in Authenticity & Transparency, Career & Learning and tagged , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

18 Comments

  1. I was never a big networker. People are surprised to hear I’m more introverted than outgoing. How I show up is situational.

    I use to dread the mixer, social gathering, networking event, etc. Yuk. ;-p

    I’ve made a one degree shift in my attitude on these events.

    When I go to a networking event, I act like I’m the host of the party. Why? Well, the host is there to serve. The host wants to be sure everyone is having a good time. You ensure this outcome by giving.

    Next time, imagine yourself as the host/hostess and see what happens.

    Works for me. Give it a try and tell me if it works for you.

    • Steve, That’s such a great idea! It’s funny, I’m always saying to my husband, “why is it that when I’m the leader, I feel totally walking around the room of 500 people engaging everyone, but have such a hard time making small talk at church coffee hour. This explains it. I’m going to give it a try.

    • Jim, Thanks so much. That’s a terrific idea…scheduling time to make it happen.

  2. Great post Karin. I have been experiencing this is spades for the last two years. I practiced law for 30 years, but along the way I got to know reporters, artists, owners of bars and restaurants, all sorts of people and all of those contacts have helped me in my present non profit gig.I have a board member I met as opposing counsel in a piece of contentious litigation. Great lesson especially for young people. Make friends, Don’t make enemies….you never know

    • Bill, Love your story. It’s a huge testimony to your style that friends and helpers came out of even tricky situations with opposing views. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great advice, Karin! I also have found that as my network has become more dispersed it’s up to me to touch base every once in a while because I value our relationship and connection… and not just when I need a favor.

  4. This is so true. People will always remember that you once helped them with no strings attached. Karin, you’re definitely one if my “good people”. Great post.

  5. Great post, Karin.

    I have found that the best way to network is to treat everyone as though they are of value. Not only is this just the right way to treat others, it’s also a great way to network because you never know who knows who! I can’t tell you how many times my best connections have come through people in my church or my community who would not be viewed as “a valuable cog in my network” but, when you get to talking with them, have so much to offer, either in experience or connections.

    Thanks for the great reminder that we all need to network and build up relationships, wherever we find them.

    • LaRae, Thank you. I so agree, people who can become very important to you (and you to them) are lingering around every corner.

  6. I have learned that one needs to approach networking in a purposeful, yet natural way. As long as we share with others who we are, what we can do to help them and present ourselves authentically, we are bound to be successful.

    I love your point of not waiting to network until you need a network. A very true statement and one that is very wise.

    Thanks Karin for a great post!

    • Terri, An excellent addition. Showing up authentically and letting people in is key.

  7. Loved your post Karin. It is relateable and easy to implement just by virtue of the fact that we are humans and are gifted with the natural instinct to help others. Would like to add that when I network with people, I also introduce people to each other which helps widen the circle. This helps add talking points and also keeps people engaged.

    • Vidhi, Excellent addition. Yes, being a networking catalyst can be so helpful and people are always so grateful. I have a few friends who are AMAZING at that.

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