I have been networking for many years. Through many recessions. I also speak on networking to companies and organizations across the country.
My original presentation was called “How to Get More by Asking for Less and Doing More For Others.”
Many advocate a philosophy of “Pay it Forward.” But does it work? It’s kind of a Karma approach. Live the right life and the right things will happen to you. But in some ways it is like planting oregano and hoping for pot.
But that presentation was written in 2003 when we were emerging from a recession and entering a period of false boom. Now it is 2015 and there are 13 million unemployed people out there.
I am a consultant. What does that mean? It means that I have to create a job for myself each and every day. Always hunting. A state of constant unemployment in many ways but I have done it for years and have kept the wolves at bay.
I am also a marketer who knows that today it is all about ROI and the Metrics. Networking takes time and how do you calculate the rate of return? What is the value of my time? What is the value of my diverse networking developed through 10 years of extensive networking? Should it be free for everyone to use? Some people often act like my networking is their entitlement.
I have always networked with people in transition for years because I saw them not just as people needing help but great resources. I have blogged about that before in a post called Why I Network With People in Transition. People are in transition these days because of circumstance not competence.
Here is my net take. “Pay it Forward” works if you network with the right people who get it. Unfortunately many people still don’t.
When people are in transition they often reach out to me because I am well connected and have a reputation for helping people. Unfortunately, many don’t get it at all. It’s like they don’t speak the language. Eventually they land and they go quiet and I never hear from them. They never think about me. I am invisible to them even though I fairly regularly send out updates to my data base. When they are out of work again, guess who gets an email? They order up their job request like I was a short order cook.
I think that some people view my network as a public endowment. Wow this guy is really connected and hears about a lot of jobs etc. I am going to reach out to him. All that is true. All connectors learn about jobs first because they can spread the news.
I am energized by people that sincerely say “What can I do for you?” when it is not rhetoric and they follow through like I try to follow through. People who come to our meetings having gone to my site or read my Linkedin profile. People that introduce me to connections that may be able to use my services versus needing my help. The later are low hanging fruit these days.
I realized a long time ago that there are two paths you can go by in your approach to networking. I can look at my network of over 10,000 contacts in my iPhone and say I should be the richest man in the world which I am certainly not. I have raised my children for over 10 years as a single DAD and that was and is very enriching but certainly not wealth building.
To me it is not about “Paying it Forward”. It is about living a life that you enjoy because you are engaged with the people around you. As I have often said, networking isn’t about going to an event but living a life of engagement. I live in a village of three million.
I went to Vons my local supermarket this weekend and bought a nice hefty 23 pound turkey for Thanksgiving that many will enjoy. The party will create memories for many. Grace my Polish cashier asked me if I wanted another Poppy Seed Cake when she goes to Polksa Deli next time. That reminded me that pay it forward is not for futures but enjoying your life today. The other gifts are a bonus.
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