arainbow by rod trevaskus, available at http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/962472As a facilitator, one of the ways in which I maintain a connection to the community and keep tabs on what other people are doing these days is networking. I was at the Danielle LaPorte evening for Bridges for Women (organized by Carolyne Taylor of YoUnlimited.com and Jocelin Caldwell of Possibilities Training & Coaching Group) a couple of weeks ago and all I could think about was, Wow, there are a lot of amazing women in this room. It really felt like the “place to be” for one great Victoria evening; I was alive with connection and I think everyone else was too.

For me, networking is all about relationship. When I meet someone new I’m curious to hear about what they do, what they’re looking for, how they’re trying to fulfill some wish or desire right now. I think, Can I help this person? Do I know someone who can? These are my first natural reactions to a conversation with someone who is looking for something.

Thinking about networking reminded me that a while back I asked a friend, Sarah Daviau of Piece of Cake Communications, about her thoughts on networking and I hadn’t yet had a chance to post her words here on my blog. Here’s what she had to say about “networking without restriction”:

There is definitely a business case for strategic networking in business – that is, networking only with those who could become customers or those who can refer you to customers. Why wouldn’t you want to network strategically and reap the rewards? Sounds logical, for sure.

But, when all we do is network strategically, this means we are making assumptions about others – their potential for being a customer, their potential for having the right contacts that can link us up with more customers.

To me, this changes the entire energy around networking from “I want to know about you” to “I want to know what you can do for me.”

Making assumptions about others is not helpful in business.

We need to open up our minds to other people so we can gather new ideas, find solutions to challenges, and perhaps learn a thing or two about business and life.

While I have definitely had success in finding new clients through networking, more opportunities have opened up to me simply because I am interested in meeting a variety of people and learning about their passions.

I recommend everyone network without restriction.

And I can tell you for certain that she does do this! And I bet her life is the richer for it. I like Sarah’s approach because I, too, think that if we let go of our networking “agenda” and just trust that something good is going to come of it – even though we might not know what that “something” is going to be – we’ll be in store for some pretty delightful surprises. It may not always be contracts or other paid work, but it could be another life “help” of some kind. There’s a lot to be said for remaining open to life’s possibilities.

What’s your approach to networking? If you’re still going into networking with an agenda to get something that you want, try to rethink your approach.

Great books to read on the subject of approaching networking from the viewpoint of What can I do to help this other person first? are:

  • “Work the Pond” by Darcy Rezac
  • “Little Black Book of Connections” by Jeffrey Gitomer
  • “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi

Do you have any others to add? Or your own personal philosophy around networking? I’d love to hear in the comments.