11 Oct 2017 16:52 IST

More than just schmoozing

Counter-intuitive though it may sound, networking is actually more about giving than receiving

A dear friend of mine and the HR head of a large IT services company reached out to me recently, asking for recommendations on a few good books on ‘networking skills’. That got me thinking — it would tremendously help aspiring networkers if they realise that networking is more about giving than taking.

Dr Adam Grant, the youngest tenured professor of Wharton Business School, authored a bestselling book titled Give and Take — Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, in which he describes the joy of giving and how it relates to success.

Adam Rifkin, American director and producer, is regarded by Fortune as one of the best networkers, with more connections on LinkedIn to the most powerful people, than anyone else in the world. Dr Adam Grant writes in his book: “Adam Rifkin taught me that giving does not require Mother Teresa or Mahatma Gandhi; we can all find ways of adding high value to others’ lives at a low personal cost. The five-minute favour is my single favourite habit that I learnt while writing the book.”

Five-minute favour

In the book, Your Network Is Your Net Worth, author Porter Gale points out that you are ultimately happier and more successful when you give without expecting. “You are just paying it forward,” he concludes. It is evident now that the five-minute favour is a big reason for Silicon Valley’s competitive advantage. It hardly takes five minutes to do something for someone else —

~ Introduce two people who could benefit from meeting each other.

~ Offer feedback on a product or service.

~ Send a gift or a card to someone to thank them for their support.

~ To share a thought or an idea; a form of nano coaching.

~ To help someone who needs direction.

Givers vs takers

Effective networkers are givers, not takers. Takers tend to rise quickly, but fall just as fast, according to Adam Grant. A full 70 per cent of jobs is found through networking, and 40 per cent of job seekers say they found their dream job through a personal connection, according to Fast Company newsletter. Thinking of networking as an opportunity to help others might seem absurdly optimistic, but avid and effective networkers will vouch for its positive impact.

If you put giving and helping others at the centre of your networking and relationship building, you are likely to have more impactful, stronger relationships, besides other benefits. It will pay well to question the following misconceptions about networking:

~ Fast-food networks: There is no such thing as fast-food networks! It takes considerable time to build bountiful relationships. The microwave mentality with which some people approach networking, does not help.

~ Outgrowing networking: You never outgrow the need to network. Some regard hobnobbing as a necessity only for junior folks as they are ones looking for help, guidance and support. But nothing can be further from the truth. The fact is, the higher we go in the hierarchy, the more vulnerable we become. And therefore, we need more help and support.

~ Networking is schmoozing: The reality is that networking is more than just chit-chat; it is about engaging in meaningful conversations, and offering guidance, support, references and resources to someone in need.

~ Networking is manipulative: This is far from the truth, especially if you believe in the five-minute favour principle. It is more about giving than taking.

~ Networkers are born, not made: The reality is that no more than 10 per cent of the people are naturally good at building networks. Others learn pick up these networking skills along the way.

So, keep the phrase in mind: your network is your net worth. Practising the five-minute favour as a way of life and giving more than taking from the networks we build, can go a long way in enhancing our own fulfilment and happiness.