Networking. Do you LOVE it or HATE it?

You’ve been out trying to network at all sorts of events. You meet people, you give them your card, and you even follow up reminding them to contact you if they need any work. But you never get any work from them.
Networking seems like a totally logical thing, doesn’t it? If you want business, you network. Networking means giving people your card and telling them what you do, right?
NO, it doesn’t. It all comes back to a key misunderstanding of the term “networking.”
Let me explain.

The Problem with Networking

The approach above isn’t done with any ill intent. I used to do it too. It’s just that the approach is a little misguided, and it’s the problem many people who struggle with “networking” have.The problem is that there is general misunderstanding of “networking” as a selfish action.
I give them my card. I follow up with them.I remind them that if they have work, contact me.
That’s a lot of “I” and “me.” Where’s the benefit to the person you’re meeting? Unless they have an immediate, unmet need for the services you provide—which is a long shot—there is likely little benefit to their connection with you.That mindset is wrong and it’s inherently selfish. That’s why most of your networking attempts are failing and fruitless.

The Fix: Stop Networking and Start Helping

Stop thinking of your local business events as “networking opportunities” and start thinking of them as opportunities to help people. Be a giver, not a taker. Change your mindset from a selfish one to an unselfish one. It’s the concept of paying it forward.
If you can provide a benefit or helping hand to someone, they’ll remember that down the road when they actually need your services. We refer a lot of business leads that aren’t good matches for us to other consultancies and freelancers, and we send them to the people who helped us out in the past. They don’t go to the guy who wants to meet for coffee, then gives me an uninterrupted 20-minute-long sales pitch (yes, that’s happened).
So stop aiming to generate business. Aim to understand and help people.

The Key Takeaway

Meet people and look for ways you can help them. Understand their business, their pain points, and their challenges—keep them in mind. Then, when you come across a helpful article, eBook, application, referral, and so forth, send it to them. Don’t expect anything back in return. Be genuine. That’s why I don’t network. I try to meet and help people. If you genuinely do the same thing, the business will follow. Trust me.
Based on material originally posted on Jeff Archibald’s blog.