Particularly when it comes to advice on “how to be successful”, but also in many other matters, I generally believe that there isn’t a singular right or wrong way to do anything (of course, that’s assuming ethics are being held in high regard here).
While success does leave clues, it is also often said that the best way for you to be successful in your endeavors is to find the way (and usually it is a process or system, not a single practice or activity) that works for you based on your particular situation, circumstances, skills and abilities. In the same way that “you can never step twice in the same river”, since it is always flowing, life for each of us is a unique and ever-changing experience as well.
That being said, still, clearly there are some universally irrefutable principles around good karma, neighborliness, and the Golden Rule that allow us to compile some solid guidelines to follow in regards to connecting with others.
In the case of networking and relationship building, right or correct ways to go about it can generally be addressed by following common guidelines involving professional etiquette, good behavior and positive intentions.
Following are ten guidelines, which I have found to be true for me in my recent experience with building online relationships. I would be surprised if these weren’t true for you as well. Hopefully this list serves more as a reminder than a drastic change in practice for anyone who reads this. But do let me know if this list triggers any additional thoughts, insights, or ideas. Here goes!
1. Don’t be desperate. It shows. Networking is most sincerely done when you aren’t forced to do it. For example: Meeting a potential employer at an employment networking session will have an entirely different dynamic for someone who is out of work and desperate for a job, than for someone who is gainfully and happily employed in an industry they are passionate about. Enjoy the process either way.
2. Don’t expect something in return. Though we are all time-strapped, don’t waste time where there is little value to be gained, but don’t be all quid-pro-quo either. If you are only connecting others to earn points, hit goals, or for the sale, then you are being selfish. Be more interested in what you can do for others than in what they can do for you. Believe in the magic of good karma and serendipity.
3. Not everyone has time available on their dance card. Spend time with those that have time for you. Some people already have full dance cards and couldn’t make time for you even if they wanted to. You still want to be respectful of everyone’s time and contributions, but build and invest in relationships that bring value and mutual benefit to all parties involved.
4. Don’t take advantage of other people. Taking advantage of or using others for some ulterior motive or selfish gain is not a long-term sustainable networking strategy. Any short-term benefits achieved under poor intentions will likely backfire on you in some way somewhere along the line, if nowhere other than the good karma scale.
5. Not every relationship is the same; and that’s okay. Good friends are hard to find; cherish those that you do find, but don’t count out casual relationships either. It is most important to understand the nature and depth of a relationship, and not expect it to be something it is or never was intended to be.
6. Be a good neighbor, even if others aren’t watching. Don’t share something without reading it first and believing in what it is about. Don’t just say you like someone else’s work to be nice. Be respectfully honest. Praise what is good. But remember that your association with a person or their work is often viewed as an indirect endorsement. Share something because it is useful, not just to get noticed or to be nice.
7. You don’t have to be everybody’s friend. Choose quality over quantity. Don’t rush the process. You don’t want any old relationship with every random person, what you really want is like-minded meaningful connections. It isn’t rude to not friend someone you don’t have anything in common with, as you are saving them and yourself time to dedicate to a relationship that is mutually beneficial instead. Be sure to choose your friends, and don’t be dependent on waiting for others to choose you.
8. Don’t confuse your circle of peers with your tribe. There is a difference between a circle of peers supporting each other in the same quest versus a target audience or tribe of like-minded fans or customers following your lead. Both circles will have different needs and wants. Don’t confuse the two.
9. You don’t have to be an expert to get started. Taking action and getting out there to meet people, online or in person, will give you the practice to improve. Our needs change as our stage of development change. You don’t need to be a guru to begin building relationships. Build connections with like-minded individuals that are looking for what you are offering at this current point in time. This will change over time as both we all evolve in our respective journeys.
10. Never stop building relationships. Building relationships and networking is never a once-and-done activity. It is a lifelong, ongoing habit. All businesses will have some degree of a churn rate with customers or fans leaving and joining over time (though be sure yours is a natural rate, not one based on poor service or unhappy customers.) Always be bringing new guests into your fold, both to sustain and to grow your footprint.
As you can see, building relationships and networking is a learnable skill that you only get better at and more focused at by doing. Hopefully you agree that the above listed guidelines involve undeniable principles that no one can go wrong with following.
Please do let me know if I’ve missed anything or if you have any thoughts to add. I looking forward to connecting with you!