This is a paraphrased title from a great blog post by Jeremiah Owyang called “Build Your Network Before You Need Them” and he says it best here:
Those who ignore the party/conversation/network when they are content and decide to drop in when they need the network may not succeed. It’s pretty easy to spot those that are just joining the network purely to take –not to give. Therefore, be part of the party/conversation/network before you need anything from anyone. Start now, and continue to build relationships by giving now: share knowledge, help others, and become a trusted node and connector, not just an outlying ‘dot’ of a comet that swings in every 4 years or so.
When you build a network of connections, if you just join as a taker, you will be exposed as the opportunist you’ve been flagged to be. This is not what networking is about. Why do so many people get this wrong? No wonder networking is viewed as an intimidating chore by some, those very people who see it as ‘asking’ or ‘begging’ for something first rather than offering genuinely and generously first.
Networking is about sharing freely as well as letting others know what you can uniquely offer to them, positioning yourself as a resource, a sphere of influence or one who can direct others to those who can provide the information or services they seek.
We are remembered best for those things we give freely without asking for anything in return.
And without fail, the rewards come when we least expect it.
When you think of your next social and/or professional networking opportunity position yourself as a giver. This can be a CLE, a Legal Conference, a church gathering, an alumni meeting, a tweetup, a live teleseminar or a Facebook event. Think first of what you can bring to the party rather than what you can take home in a doggie bag. The experience may be less intimidating because you are not asking for anything. It may help you to be less of a wallflower or lurker and more of an active participant.
This connecting and giving philosophy will not only help you to enjoy those ‘networking events’ but also make you a better professional…. and a better human being.