I call it the multiplier effect of networking. The helpful and positive things that I do for other people gets paid forward, expanded on, turned around, and value gets added. The group as a whole is lifted up. People find it easier to do good things for each other. And then it comes back around to me, my work is enhanced and it gets passed along again.
Like pushing someone on a swing. Each push adds a little more momentum so the rider goes higher and higher until there's hardly any effort involved at all. You only need to give it little pushes to keep going. But you can't stop. Eventually the momentum runs out and everything stops.
It's the same with networking. It's hard at first and you seem to get so little back from your effort. But then it starts to add up. A little bit of energy goes a longer way. Until all you need to do is give it regular small pushes and momentum keeps carrying you forward. Your effort doesn't add up, it multiplies.
Here are the things I do that I think multiplies my networking efforts.
- Long-term Consistent Networking: I've been in the same job in the same community doing the same events for nearly seven years. That kind of consistency adds up. It's a very different dynamic when you and someone else "go back for years." Do you think you'll know more about how you can help someone you've known for 10 years than someone you just met? A long history of being helpful, of being a resource goes a long way toward building a great relationship.
- Regular Habit of Small Things: I look for things that I can do quickly when the opportunity strikes, rather than hold back all my effort for the big kill. This way I can help more people and I have the chance to do something maybe every day, maybe twice a day. The more often you do something, the easier it gets and the more of a habit you establish.
- Helping Many at Once: A big part of my job is creating activities where a lot of people come together in one place at one time such as Speed Networking and mixers. It's an incredible way to help many more people, all at once, with the same amount of effort. Oh, I still connect people one-on-one, but for sheer momentum and compounding your effort, few things beat being the organizer of an event where 100+ people got to build relationships.
Photo from Flickr by Marcin Wichary