Networking is not getting favors from other people. Networking is giving favors. A good networker is always sniffing for a way to help whoever she is talking to.
If you are at a loss for how to do this, read Ken Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Lunch Alone. When I interviewed Ferrazzi about building networks, he spent a lot of time on the idea of being liked. If people like you, he said, they will help you, so instead of concentrating on getting favors, focus on being likeable.
Last Friday I was on a panel at the Publicity Club of New York where I was struck by the amount of kindness in the room. There were five journalists and about 80 publicists and there was no b.s. The publicists were upfront that they just want to get their clients in the news. And the journalists were up front that they want to do less work so if the publicist can think of news items for the journalist, the journalist will put the client in the press.
Everyone was there to get something. But what was so fun about the lunch was that people were actually so giving and helpful. For example, one woman approached me at the end of the panel discussion and offered an idea for writing about labor unions — not her client at all, but someone else in the room had mentioned a labor union client. This woman was helping me, the labor union, and the publicist representing the labor union.
Publicists, more than anyone, know that their value is in what they have to give. Publicists are experts in that they spend their days building relationships. But we should all strive to be like that.
And then, of course, you have to get comfortable asking for help. Guy Kawasaki points out in his blog that there is no benefit to helping tons of people if you never ask for help yourself: “Good schmoozers give favors. Good schmoozers also return favors. However, great schmoozers ask for the return of favors.”
Being kind will get you useful, reliable network. But, more importantly than that, Martin Seligman’s research shows that looking for ways to help people will make you a happier person. Maybe this means that publicists are the happiest people around.