Networking, Character, and Competency Still Matter

By E. Brown

How many times have you been to a networking event and felt that everyone you met wanted something from you? You leave thinking, “I thought this was a networking occasion, not a sales affair.” Maybe, you have been in the other shoes and looked at networking events as a place to dig up sales and business leads. If a person didn’t show interest in what you had to offer, you had no time for them and moved on to the next person/opportunity.

Another way to think of networking events is to think of them as relationship building events. Instead of wanting something from the people you meet – how about wanting something for the people you meet?

Does this concept seem upside-down to you? For instance, why is it we expect people to treat us with respect and show interest in us when we do not reciprocate? This tells something about our motivation, doesn’t it?

So, what are we to do? Certainly, we want networking to be worth our time and effort. We want it to profitable – right?

I suggest the relational approach. Be genuinely interested in others first. Find out what they do and how you can help them succeed. Anne Baber and Lynn Waymon offer several excellent suggestions in their book, Make Your Contacts Count, about building a relational network. Teach your contacts that you can be trusted by letting them see 1) your character, and 2) your competence.

• Be unfailingly reliable
• Meet deadlines
• Go for the win/win solution
• Treat everyone you meet fairly
• Speak well of people even when they are not present
• Collaborate rather than compete
• When something goes wrong, make it right
• Compensate generously for your failure
• Go the extra mile
• Respect other people’s time and possessions

• Have earned the proper credentials
• Stay at the leading edge of your profession
• Have won praise and awards from your peers
• Take life-long learning seriously
• Are cited as an expert in the trade press or mass media
• Teach or mentor others
• Consult with others to share expertise
• Do the job right the first time
• Handle the “little stuff” with care
• Follow through to make sure you meet or exceed expectations

Next time you come away from a networking event you will be more fulfilled. You will have started numerous new relationships that will pay big dividends in the end. You will experience a good reputation – one who can be trusted, can get the job done, and is looking out for the success of others.

What else could you ask for?

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2 thoughts on “Networking, Character, and Competency Still Matter

  1. Great topic Eric.

    You know, you surprise me again and again it seems with some of the things you post.
    But in truth, I suppose its because its human nature not to open up and give a person who they are…now. It’s much more comforting to feel we ‘know’ someone and can label them properly so that our ‘minds’ can deal with them. ;)

    I’m reminded of a friend I met a few years ago at an Apple conference. From a networking standpoint, I look at the relationship aspect, as I’m not good at finding something/someone and squeezing it dry and moving on for my own benefit. Not because I’m holier than thou, but its just not my communication style…I’m too straight forward, and sometimes this can be like a bit of sandpaper. (though I’m trying to become a smoother grade.) lol

    Anyway, after a few years something became evident. The Christian friend (and I view him as a friend, as I saw the uniqueness in his personality and appreciated it), but it seemed the relationship was not reciprocal. Indeed, he did seem to pop up whenever he was looking for a job. Being in a manager/producer position, he figured I could get him connected into a ‘cool’ job. Wasn’t the case…but anyway… At the end it became clear this was all there was and this was really the extent of what communication was about. Of course, each time had the polite and courteous talk…and in this case the christianized brother talk…but after I left the company, all communication dropped — period.

    Things happen. He was a great guy, but this topic is indeed something to be aware of, and more often than not we do not realize that we are ‘using people’.

    I’m sure I have been guilty at stages as well. It’s easy, even in the Christian world…and maybe more so there as we can more easily justify why we do what we do.

    People have a lot of fear, and this fear extends into the work place and team. I have actually seen in one team an unhealthy competition arise between two members that I thought were otherwise friends. One party was concerned for their position and stayed leery of the other(s) for the position that they held.

    Instead of collaboration we have competition. The fear builds a wall as we identify with the roles we play.

    “I am executive this and that” – “I work for so and so.” Now if we said, “I am so dang beautiful”, we would know that soon this beauty fades. This is obvious. What we don’t realize is that this goes for everything else as well. But since we spend the majority of our lives being the artist, the counselor, the pastor, this and that, etc. – we take it for who we are and when someone seems to encroach upon our territory, we bite. And that is what happened in the situation that I explained between the 2 managers.

    Anyway, good to see your post Eric, keep up the work and good to see how your life is ‘evolving’/growing. We may have completely different ways of expressing ourselves (and it may seem somewhat contradictory) but your hitting the same key points that I have been talking about and trying to implement in my own life.



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