I am constantly amazed by the mistakes that people make when it comes to networking. Every day, I receive an email, a Facebook message or a Tweet (www.twitter.com/marshawnevans) from someone asking me for something. I love being in a position to give, to advise, and to help. The reality, however, is that I can only do so much. The real challenge is that requests come from people I do not know.
Giving a business card does not mean we now have a connection, certainly not a real relationship. A relationship implies reciprocity—more of a give-and-take, mutually-beneficial kind of thing. Networking is not about the number of business cards you have. It is about what you do with them, and how you do it.
In my book, SKIRTS in the Boardroom: A Woman’s Survival Guide to Success in Business & Life (Wiley 2008), I have an entire chapter dedicated to networking called “Connections: Do Shorter SKIRTS Ever Hurt?” As a Reinvention Strategist™, I firmly believe that you cannot change your outcomes unless you change your outlook. Success is only as sustainable as the strength of your relationships. The key to reinventing your success begins with reinventing and renewing your relationships—or at least your approach.
My point: You must be careful when asking for a hook-up. It often makes people think that you are trying to hustle them. Why? A hustler always wants something from someone. This is difficult for hungry entrepreneurs to appreciate, but it is critical to understand nonetheless. Asking for help does not mean that you are being deceitful, but you probably are not earning points either.
Networking strategically is one of the most effective tools for career enhancement. For men and women alike, it requires patience, persistence, and savvy insight to bypass the most common pitfalls. Here are three common myths when it comes to networking.
Myth #1: It is “who you know” that determines where you go.
False! That thought is only partially true. Ultimately, where you go is about your ability to expand “who you know” by networking. Plus, it is about how well you know “who you know,” what the “who you know” says about you, and how much the “who-you-know” trusts you!
Myth #2: Networking is a numbers game.
Wrong! Trying to meet as many people as possible is a faulty approach. True networking is about quality, not quantity. Anyone can collect a ton of business cards. Strategic networking is about establishing quality relationships.
Myth #3: Networking is about finding others who can help you reach your goals.
Yet another mistake! Effective networking is a give-and-take process. Notice the word give comes before take. The more you give of yourself, your time, and your expertise, the more others will want to pour back into your life and career as well.