The Network Effect: How Community Building And Advocating for Others Empowers Everyone

Recently, I began a multi-part series on the importance of networking (see Part 1 and Part 2). To recap, without a network of genuine relationships, it’s impossible to reach your full potential.

The reason is simple: Talent and hard work will only take you so far. You need to cultivate relationships with people that have your back and actually care about you as a person. If you fail to create authentic connections, it’s only a matter of time before your career hits the ceiling and starts spiraling back down. No one will be looking out for you except yourself.

It’s Not All About You

Think you’re above a little schmoozing? Remember what you learned when you were a kid: It’s just not all about you.

You are not the center of the universe. There’s more to life than you. The world is full of greatly talented individuals. You won’t form great relationships with any of them if you look down on everyone you meet.

The Value Of Networking Groups

Amazing things can happen when you are not self-centered. You meet some of incredibly gifted people, hit it off, and things start to get exciting.

I get a real kick out of putting together small groups of like-minded individuals. These gatherings usually involve 15 to 20 people who can be relevant to each other in some way, shape, or form. I enjoy watching these interactions where people exchange ideas, build trust, and forge constructive partnerships. I see tremendous value being created, and largely because the participants are being authentic with each other.

These events can be incredibly fruitful, but they are not always easy to arrange. The most challenging thing about them is getting people to actually open up in the first place. Some individuals have trouble articulating their needs while others have difficulty explaining how they can be helpful. Such is life.

If you find yourself in either group, consider the following tips:

  • Always be on time and stay for the whole event. Otherwise, people will assume you are a dick.
  • Some people are introverted—and that’s okay. Try your hardest to engage, interact, and learn about your peers.
  • Seek introductions and follow ups when appropriate. Don’t spam anyone. But remember cultivating genuine relationships is how your professional life will grow.
  • Assume you are there to be helpful. Don’t be too important to be accessible.

Most people who attend networking events are there because they want to make money, manage their businesses better, and grow professionally. But many lack the skills to optimize the opportunity that these intimate gatherings present.

In my experience, approaching such occasions with an open, honest, and helpful attitude is what gets things going in the right direction.

Don’t Treat People as a Means to an End

People really dislike being viewed as a means to an end.

In the long run, no one really cares about a social climber. (Trust me, over time, it becomes incredibly easy to spot the social climber). However, people that are helpful earn gratitude, respect, and affection.

If you learn one thing from this article, let it be this: Individuals like to help other people who are helpful in return. That’s a key reason helpful people are more ultimately more successful: They create a virtuous cycle. Remember this.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

Some of the most amazing opportunities are inbound. They are ones that come looking for you. Unfortunately, those opportunities are unlikely to present themselves to you unless the people who can help you understand what you are looking for and what your needs are.

People enjoy assisting others, particularly when they know what you need help with. In fact, evidence shows one of the best ways to build or nurture a friendship is to ask someone to do you a favor; it makes that person feel needed and valued.

When you attend a networking event, make sure each and every one of the other people there know what your needs are by the time you leave. Odds are someone will offer to help out.

Advocate for Others

Helping people is important—but you need to be genuine. Don’t offer to lend a hand only so you get something in return. If you want to run your business better and grow professionally, you need to be a giver. Sooner or later, others will return the favor. Take my word for it.

Nowadays—in the era of digital professional networks and social graphs—we all have the ability to connect like-minded and complementary people with each other. There are few things in life as worthwhile as taking steps to help others reach their potential. Introduce helpful people to one another and great things will happen.

Treat Givers Right

Whatever you do, never piss off a giver. Don’t take them for granted, either.

If you can’t find it in your heart to be a giver—that’s okay. But at least appreciate those who do. Rubbing them the wrong way or abusing their generosity is a sure way to push the givers in your life away. And by that time, you’ll probably be suffering personally and professionally—without realizing it until it’s too late.

No one is forcing you to go at it on your own. The good news is you don’t have to. Include other people in your life, and lend them a hand whenever you can. They’ll scratch your back soon enough, and great things will follow.