As part of LEAD’s EMBARK San Diego program, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Doug Holman talked to us about something that many people were never taught how to do, but yet are often expected to do — networking.
We’ve all been at an event where we’ve tried to dodge the obnoxious guy trying to pitch his services and gather as many business cards as possible. “That guy” is what has given the concept of networking and networking events a bad name.
“Networking is different than selling,” said Holman. If that’s true, then what is networking really about?
Holman maintains that the best way to network is to make yourself a resource and ask yourself how you can help the other person. “But 90 percent of the population refuses to do this,” he said. This means understanding the needs of others, demonstrating concern and finding ways to help. And if you don’t know what other people may need, ask them, and do it in a way that is engaging. Have enthusiasm and empathy when appropriate. Show you care and this will make others in turn care about you too.
This change in perspective, from “what can I get out of networking?” to “how can I help someone else?” will change the result of your efforts. While building a strong professional network can take time, doing so is a worthwhile effort that can lead to mutually beneficial relationships for all.
A few other words of advice from Holman:
- Networking is marketing yourself as likeable.
- We’re all narcissists – we’re wired that way. Ask about other people, what they do, what their interests are and how you can help.
- Not everyone is going to be your cup of tea – and that’s OK.
- You are making a first impression all the time.
Keep these tips top of mind next time you are at an event.
EMBARK San Diego helps participants develop and hone skill sets in the areas of leadership development. Participants engage in a personalized leadership assessment diagnostic, dynamic team-building experiences and learn the art of building a professional network, among other skills. For more on EMBARK and other LEAD programs, visit leadsandiego.org.