Networking Rule #1: Be a Giver, Not a Taker

It’s easy to get stuck in a selfish mindset when you’re trying to advance your career. And in this fast-paced world, the proliferation of social media could be feeding your greed.

According to Steve Tobak, who is a consultant and author, social media is at the root of selfish networking because it reinforces bad behavior. It makes sense. After all, the way we interact online is often one-sided: We log on to create an image of ourselves as influencers, and we log off without listening to others.

But when networking is done right — with mutually beneficial partnerships in mind — it’s truly incredible what acquaintances will do for each other. You just have to take selfishness out of the equation. Here are seven steps to get started:

1. Walk in the door with a generous mindset

It’s better to be a giver than a taker. Keith Ferrazzi, author of networking bestseller “Never Eat Alone,” lives by the mantra that “the currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.” 

When you step into a networking event or pick up the phone, you should be thinking about how you can help the other person, how you can add value and what great things you could do together that you couldn’t accomplish alone. Your attitude won’t go unnoticed, and as a result people will gravitate toward you.

2. Highlight the mutual benefit

I get a lot of calls from people pitching partnerships with my company, but, astonishingly, most of these callers never address how they can help me in return. A good partnership is mutually beneficial. Any time you reach out, make sure to emphasize what you can bring to the table.

3. Be transparent

If you’re looking for a job opportunity, be honest from the start. Recently an old acquaintance contacted me claiming he wanted to partner with my business. After 10 minutes, however, it became apparent that he had other intentions. I finally asked him if he was looking for a job. Reluctantly, he responded, “Yes.” I turned him down, but if he had been upfront from the beginning, I would’ve been more inclined to help.

4. Think quality over quantity

Your career isn’t your Facebook profile; nobody’s counting your friends, so don’t play a numbers game with networking. Rather, look for opportunities to add value. Don’t just collect stacks of business cards; carefully select the people you want to network with. It’s impossible to build meaningful connections with hundreds of people. Networking is like marketing — targeting is everything.

5. Set clear goals for each interaction

It’s easy to get caught up in the business of networking without really knowing what your goals are. I’m more interested in the prospect of new connections if they can clearly relate what they’re trying to achieve and what their ethos is. Spend some time understanding your own career goals before reaching out to others.

6. Make it easy for others to help you

You can be generous when you’re the one being given an opportunity, too. Make the introduction as easy as possible. Give the person making the introduction a packet with your résumé, a cover letter, a personal story and a sample introduction. When you do all the heavy lifting for your intermediary, he’ll be eager to make a warm introduction and root for you.

7. Show your appreciation

Don’t let your generosity slip once you get what you want or when things don’t go your way. No matter how it turns out, always follow up and thank the intermediary who made the introduction. You never know when you’ll need his help again, so keep the friendship going.

Above all, never complain if the introduction doesn’t pan out. That’s your problem, and it will undoubtedly rub the other person the wrong way.

In the world of business networking, it’s essential to adopt a philosophy of helping others without an expectation of getting something in return. Remember: It’s not a transactional relationship. If you enter every situation with a generous mindset, you can turn a room full of people into a room full of job opportunities.

Robert Glazer, founder and managing director of Acceleration Partners, is a customer acquisition specialist with an exceptional track record in growing revenue and profits for fast-growing consumer products and services companies. Read more from Robert on networking and business tips on Acceleration Partners’ Digital Marketing Blog.