Networking Dilemma: What Can I Offer A New Acquaintance?

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Hi Liz,
Love the book Reinvention Roadmap. Thanks!
Question: I struggle with networking. You recommend going out to lunch a couple of times a week for this. I feel like I don’t have much to offer those with whom I am trying to network. Do you have any suggestions on how one can “sweeten” the deal for the other person when one is networking/looking for a new job?
Thanks,
John
Hi John,
It’s understandable that you might feel you don’t have a lot to offer a new acquaintance, and to feel shy about inviting someone to lunch or coffee. It takes a shift in mindset to see that networking is not about an exchange of gifts or favors. It’s a process of building glue — that is, trust and friendship — between two people.
The best way to begin networking is to have lunch or coffee with people you already know. You will see at those early lunches and coffees (or breakfasts, drinks after work or walk around the lake) that you have a tremendous amount to offer. You offer moral support, advice, maybe a good joke, and a sounding board for ideas. These are magnificent, irreplaceable things!
You don’t need to be able to offer a networking contact a concrete thing like a job search lead or a new client. Your current friends and contacts can introduce you to new people — people they know but you don’t (not yet). When they make email introductions, they will suggest a reason why their friends should meet you. Maybe it’s because you are smart and fun. Maybe it’s because you are an awesome person and your mutual friend wants their other friends to meet you.
As your confidence grows, you’ll attend group networking events and meet new people there. If the idea of attending a large networking gathering is scary or off-putting, bring a friend with you. You will meet people at those gatherings who are open to meeting other people, like you. Little by little your confidence will grow until you stop wondering “What do I have to offer a new acquaintance?” altogether.
Job seekers often worry that the don’t have “enough” — enough experience for employers to take them seriously, or enough value or “pull” to offer people at a networking coffee meeting.
You have more than enough. Not everyone has to have coffee with you. Not everyone will. Only the people who get you, deserve you!
Yours,
Liz

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