You attend every get together masked as a networking event that you can think of. Local events, industry events, online mixers and happy hours all in the hopes of finding something.

Question is, do you even know what you are looking for?

Chances are you are going to say yes.

Perhaps you seek a new customer, a new employee for your business or a new career for yourself.

So you head out with a pocketful of business cards and a well pressed new suit. Ready to shake hands, kiss babies and ask for help.

Here is the Problem

Do you actually get what networking is all about?

While this may feel like a rhetorical or even a silly question. Let me tell you why it isn’t.

Picture this…

You are in a room full of networkers that are all “Looking for that something.”

Each person has a slightly different something, but the gist of what is being sought is the same. It is based around personal gain. The desire to leave with something that they didn’t come with.

Now let’s think about this a bit more.

If there are 50 people in a room all looking to leave with something, where are they getting it from?

Moreover, if the room is full of takers, where are the givers?

Do you see the problem?

Taking a New Approach

To make networking successful there needs to be a balance of Give and Take.

People in the room with something to offer and people in the room with something they need.

This being an evolving process those that eventually get what they need from networking need to come back and give to others in need in the future.

However, that isn’t the way it often goes. Most people come out of the woodwork to network when they have a need and once it is fulfilled they vanish again.

In the “Networked Economy,” this will lead to a scarcity in help and an overabundance of those in need. Sound familiar?

Ask This Question: How Can I Help

Do you want to be the most popular networker in the room?

Start by asking “How can I help you?”

Whether you have a need or not, this question will completely change your networking outlook because you take the conversation from immediately becoming about you and your needs and it becomes about the person you are speaking to and their needs.

The caveat to this discussion…

When you ask, listen carefully to determine if you can actually help.

When you start focusing on the giving portion of networking the fruits of reciprocity will come in greater abundance even though that may seem counterintuitive.

New Expectations in a New Connected World

I recently reconnected with a former customers after a few years and I asked him the question, “How Can I Help.”

This gentleman, a great industrial designer; turned out he had a new product that he was looking for help launching.

He thought I could help him and would be willing to pay for connections.

It turns out I knew at least two perfect connections for him and I said to him…

“Look, I’d love to connect you, but I don’t want you to pay me. This is what networking is about…I want to know how I can help.”

The gratitude was immediately visible on his face, almost in awe that I didn’t want anything for taking 5 minutes to make a call or write an email.

Here is Why I didn’t Want Money

Our networks are our Net Worth. I read this the other day and I believe it to be true.

When we can help we should and when we need help we should ask.

But we should always start with how we can help. It is then that people will genuinely want to help us in return.

Success is a process and better networking will come with better intentions.

So here is the playbook going forward…

I will give to my network without expectation, and I will measure the results by the relationships I build.

How will you step up your networking?