Company leaders often face tremendous pressure—to successfully develop groundbreaking products and take them to market—while…
The Power of Networking and Community-Building
When you hear the word networking, you might think of it as making a connection on LinkedIn, commenting on a colleague’s tweet on Twitter, or glad-handing at an industry conference or local Chamber mixer. To be sure, those are acts of networking, but they don’t equate to true, genuine connection. All humans long for connection; Covid showed us that we aren’t hardwired to live in long-term isolation. And that’s what effective networking is all about—making lasting, meaningful connections with others.
It may sound a bit self-serving, but it goes without saying that industry trade associations are an excellent place to network and build relationships with potential customers, partners, investors, mentors, and other professionals who can help you create new opportunities, make relevant connections, and grow your business. Moreover, networking leads to community-building—that is, bringing people together to solve challenges in their industries and in the places where they live and work. Community is what people need most, especially now, and working together toward a common goal is how we can all thrive. Industry trade associations provide ready-made networks and communities. In the case of WTIA, for example, which offers free membership for tech companies, all you have to do is opt in.
On a recent episode of The C-Suite Chronicles podcast, we sat down with two experts on the power of networking and community-building. Thom Singer is the CEO of the Austin Technology Council and a renowned keynote speaker and author who’s helped thousands of people learn how to build meaningful business relationships and leverage personal connections to achieve success. He’s the host of the Making Waves at C-Level and Austin Tech Connect podcasts, and he’s written 12 books on the power of business relationships, sales, networking, presentation skills and entrepreneurship.
Pankaj Sharma is Executive Vice President of Global Remittance Business Management at Remitly, a digital financial services company that facilitates international money transfers to more than 135 countries. Pankaj is passionate about helping people network authentically, and he’s doing some innovative work at Remitly to help employees there feel more engaged, connected, seen, and included.
They offered the following advice on leveraging the power of networking and community-building, and creating enduring connections:
Dig the well BEFORE you get thirsty
Thom defines networking as “the creation of long-term and mutually beneficial relationships between two or more people where everyone achieves greater success because of those relationships.” However, building those connections doesn’t happen overnight. You have to invest in cultivating those relationships and solidifying people’s trust and goodwill over time before you can ask them for something in return, like a job, a referral, or an introduction.
To build quality relationships and connections, you must give your time and support in service of others. Then the opportunities will follow. That’s because the more people who know, like, and trust you, the more likely it is that you’ll be top of mind when those opportunities come up. And in today’s world, where more people are interacting virtually, it’s critical to seek out connections, actively engage with people, and get involved in your community whenever possible.
Be a giver, not a taker
On that note, you know you’re networking effectively if you’re giving more than you’re taking. This means providing genuine help and support to those you choose to connect with, rather than trying to extract something from them. True networking is a two-way street and involves both parties working together to achieve one another’s goals. Be generous with your time, resources, and knowledge, and focus on providing value to the other person first.
Cold messages aren’t connections
Sending someone an unsolicited connection request or a cold message on social media doesn’t automatically make them a part of your network. In fact, it’s probably going to have the opposite effect and distance that person from you because there’s no context for you to make a meaningful connection. Sending a cold message is kind of like asking someone to marry you on a first date. It’s off-putting, overbearing, and a little creepy. You have to connect with people on a genuine level first, whether you’re persuading someone to join your network, hire you or invest in your company, or buy your product or service.
Helping others helps you
Networking, online or otherwise, should be intentional, Pankaj noted. It’s not about asking the question, “what’s in it for me?” The question you should lead with, is, “Who can I help?”
Thom pointed out that networking is not a verb, it’s a lifestyle. The magic of networking happens when you focus outward and look for ways to connect people you meet with people you know who can help them succeed. When you meet someone new, he suggests asking the following questions: “What’s your biggest challenge in business? Who is your ideal customer and where do you find them?” Guiding the conversation this way enables you to look for opportunities to help others thrive. What’s more, networking with a “servant mindset” draws people to you and makes you memorable, especially if you’re able to make an introduction to someone who can help them. That “help-others-first” approach is the secret to building lasting friendships and business relationships that will help you thrive throughout your career.
Seek out opportunities to collaborate
Whether it’s in your organization or industry, or out in your community, find ways to come together with others to address and solve pressing challenges. No one is an island, and the more smart minds join forces to come up with creative, innovative solutions to issues such as transportation; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and recruiting and retention, the better off the collective will be.
Internally at Remitly, Pankaj is passionate about ensuring that everyone has a voice and feels like they have an opportunity to contribute equally. Every meeting he hosts, for example, fosters a “thinking environment” where every person in the room or on the call has an opportunity to speak up and offer unique suggestions, ideas, and perspectives.
Thom put it this way: “Those things won’t solve themselves, and you can’t wave a magic wand and solve them. You have to have people in the community who are forward-thinking, visionary leaders, and who care beyond their own bottom line that they want to impact everything around them. When that happens, things will thrive.”
That’s the true power of networking and building community.
Be sure to check out our full conversation with Pankaj and Thom on Episode 5 of The C-Suite Chronicles podcast. You can also watch the video on our Youtube channel.
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