Another dot in the blogosphere?

Consulting 101: More on networking

Posted on: November 13, 2015

This it the third part of my reflections on being an independent consultant.

Yesterday I shared a few standard and unconventional HOWs of networking. Today I focus on WHY.

Networking by jairoagua, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  jairoagua 

It is tempting to view networking as a just-in-case activity. You never know how a business card or a good introduction might end up being work for a client. So the first and obvious WHY of networking is for yourself.

However, I have observed such networking behaviour to come across as desperate, overly aggressive, and if I read the body language right, off-putting to the listener. There is a principled difference when a person initiates self-promotion and when a person is invited to say more.

This is like someone teaching a class that everyone has to attend but has no idea why. Here the teacher does most of the talking and the students sit back. The alternative is learning that is driven by need or desire. The signs of this are conversations that start with questions that are important to the learner and a better balance of who does the talking.

I accidentally discovered this when attending conferences, speaking at events, or facilitating workshops. After a shared experience — someone else’s talk, my seminar, or my workshop — someone invariably approaches me with questions.

My goal is to help with a question or issue, not cultivate a client. I leave it to that person to decide if they need my paid services after we chat. The returns on efforts like these are not high, but I can walk away with a clear conscience.

Another less obvious reason for networking is to help someone else already in my network. If you listen hard enough, people will share opportunities that might be suitable for someone else. I like to put these people in touch with other people I know. It is my way of creating serendipity. A more calculative person might think of this as scoring karma points, but I do not keep score because that is tiresome.

So why network? Simply because 1) it is a natural extension of events like conferences and workshops, 2) you create serendipity by trying to help others, and 3) in doing so, you help yourself.

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