We have heard time and again that networking is an important building block to success. But not many people do it.
Networking allows you to grow your personal brand and build awareness, whether you're a freelancer, solopreneur, content creator, or person of influence. Consequently, it also helps you grow your business brand.
You are opening yourself up to more opportunities, whether it's more sales, referrals, collaborations, exposure, or employment opportunities.
Now is a great time for me to quote the inspiration for this post, Dan Koe, “Networking is a skill.”
Not everyone is born with the ability to socialise.
But as with any skill, practice makes improvement.
In essence, networking is the process of building a network of relationships with different people. In this day and age, networking can be done over a multitude of channels and platforms, whether face-to-face, over the DMs, or via Zoom calls.
The goal is to be able to build a relationship with a person who can help you access an opportunity that you would otherwise not have, or at least introduce you to somebody who can.
In the past couple of years, I have been trying, practicing, and learning networking.
I have managed to meet with the owners of pretty big brands and a CTO of an MNC, and even joined BNI for a year.
I also am in contact with a diplomat-turned-consultant, who has access to Chinese billionaires, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates. He is now my mentor and I will be mentoring his three daughters in the future.
Please do not mistake all that as bragging. Instead, I am trying to prove a point.
Networking with these people did absolutely nothing for me. It didn't move the needle at all.
With that, I would like to introduce you to the term - The Networking Fallacy.
You can attend courses on networking, search on Google, or ask ChatGPT. All of them will tell you that you need to be authentic and genuine while networking.
But nothing about networking feels authentic or genuine at all. Everyone who networks has a motive.
I once attended a 5-day webinar for creative solopreneurs. They taught us something called the 3-2-1 method for networking. Leave 3 likes, 2 comments, and 1 DM for prospects on Instagram.
I couldn’t believe it.
I had spoken to my friends and peers. They said that networking was unsuccessful for them because of how disingenuous it was. They could sense the motives and intentions from a mile away. They wound up dreading it, especially the introverts, and eventually gave up.
Being genuine is a mindset and comes from the heart. Networking, on the other hand, is a skill.
How can they interconnect with one another? Why does such a conundrum exist?
As with all difficult questions in life, I turned to AI.
I asked ChatGPT and here is the answer.
I still have some reservations about the answer.
I'm sure you can't be authentic and genuine when you only choose to network with people who you think can help you achieve your goals.
This reminds me of the staff members in luxury stores who only provide excellent service to the people who they think are likely to make a purchase.
Anyway, introducing you to this fallacy is not me trying to dissuade you from networking.
But rather, I would like to share with you how I have managed to find ways to continue networking with people all around the world AND see results.
All without feeling judged, disingenuous, or fake.
I grew tired of networking. It was exhausting for me and I felt pretentious on so many occasions.
One day, I decided to put my foot down and stop networking, especially if it required me to spend money or commute for more than an hour.
Instead, I just wanted to socialize, make new friends, and listen to their stories.
I ended up doing this in a couple of ways:
On platforms like Twitter and Instagram, I would send a DM to anyone whose content I really liked, or that I found meaningful or inspiring. I genuinely wanted to learn more about them and even help them out if I could.
On LinkedIn, if I saw a post on my feed that I found interesting, I would check out their profile to learn more about them. Then, I would send a connection request and a note that lets them know what part of their profile or posts made me want to connect with them. After the connection request has been accepted, I would message them to have a conversation. I've even jumped on a video call with some of them to chat.
The same applies for any other platform. If I really enjoyed an article, I'll reach out to the author. If I was inspired by a YouTube video, I'll reach out to the YouTuber.
So, change your perspective on networking. Make friends instead.
Giver's gain is a concept that I learned during my days in BNI.
In simple terms, it dictates the mindset that you will have something to gain as long as you give. So, give.
It was the mantra that was repeated at every meeting and has now been engraved on my skull.
So, I put it into action:
When I was asked to join and give a talk to a no-code community group, I said yes. Even though preparing for it took me two days.
Until today, I've still gotten messages from people who have seen my talk.
When I saw that a passionate solopreneur could use a brand strategy, I reached out and offered my services to her for free.
She shouted me out in her weekly newsletter to her 3,000+ email list.
“No one has ever become poor by giving.” - Anne Frank
Put your ego aside and give.
I know of people who spend a lot of time networking and meeting people, but never bothered to stay in touch.
They have a long list of contacts in their back pocket but the relationship lasted as long as the networking session did.
And I never hear from them unless they wanted something from me.
Isn't that a shame?
Regardless if it's networking or friendship, a relationship only works if both parties are on board.
You have to put in the work and do your best to keep the relationship alive.
I do this by:
Just think - how do you and your friends keep the friendship alive?
Many networking newbies on the internet go straight for the ask and wonder what went wrong. But I don't blame them. I only know what I know because I started networking physically before jumping online.
Now that you've done step 1-3, you will have made a couple of friends.
It's definitely a lot easier to ask for a favor at this stage.
“Hey, I have a new ebook and I'm confident it'll help you. Here's a copy! Could you let me know your thoughts after you've read it?”
“Do you know anyone who might need my services? My schedule's clear next week and I'd appreciate any referrals in exchange for a referral fee.”
“I was wondering if you'd like to do a collab? I saw a collab case study and it was amazing!”
“What do you think about exchanging services and video testimonials for each other?”
From the 4 examples I've written, there is one common principle. Even though I'm asking for something, I made sure that they would benefit as well.
I'm making it a no-brainer for them to say yes.
Well, that’s it for today. I hope you try this out and shoot me a DM on Twitter to let me know how it goes.