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How and Why to Approach Networking as Community Service


6/6/2012 1:53:57 PM

How and Why to Approach Networking as Community Service By Sandy Jones-Kaminski, Author of I'm at a Networking Event--Now What???

Why am I not a reluctant networker? I consider attending networking events to be my volunteer, or “community service” time each month and my goal is always to make it easy for people to ask for the help they need. Why? Here are five reasons:

1. You gotta give to get. (It's called karma people!)

2. You're creating opportunities to reinforce your personal brand.

3. It will make your efforts feel like a great use of your time as opposed to a waste. And, besides, don't you feel good after a shift volunteering at the senior center?

4. “You can make more friends in two months by becoming really interested in other people, than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” -Dale Carnegie

5. You just might offer help to the husband or partner of the elusive business owner you've been cold calling since last spring.

Besides, more often than not, the majority of the people at a networking event are there because they need help with something. Otherwise, they'd probably be home watching Dancing with the Stars or American Idol or maybe their kid's soccer game.

What I wonder is why we make it so difficult for people to "get to the ask" when we're at in-person events, or worse, force them to launch into a canned or fake-sounding elevator pitch? I even question why people bother attending mixers, socials, networking events, or whatever else they're called in your industry, if they're not going to offer whatever help they can to the people they meet. What is the point of attending then? To be seen? To look for a date?You know what? I don't really want to know why.

I want to further evangelize the pay it forward approach to networking, and get more people to start thinking about attending networking events as a form of giving back to their communities and simply consider it "community service." It's something that can be done a few times a quarter, month or week, or whatever your lifestyle allows.

Unfortunately, my lifestyle right now doesn't allow me to donate time at the senior center or with a local Girl Scout troop, but my business requires me to do a certain amount of networking each month, and turning those scenarios or encounters into a "How can I help you right now?" conversation turns it into an act of community service, and that not only helps the other person (just even asking can indicate support to some people), it also helps my karma, which always feels good!

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About the Author

Sandy Jones-Kaminski is the author of "I'm at a Networking Event--Now What???" which was ranked #1 on the 2010 Inc.com Holiday Gift Guide Wish List and has been a VP of Networking for a major national professional development association. Since 1998, she's been a executive in the human capital resources and services industry and currently shares her hard-earned insights on effective networking and personal branding via webinars, panels, keynotes, one-on-one consulting, her blog and workshops. Sandy has written numerous articles for WomenEntrepreneur and The Salary Reporter on www.PayScale.com and has been featured on Fox Business News, NWJobs, Work Goes Strong, Bankrate.com, You're Hired! and My Global Career. Learn more via her website at www.belladomain.com.

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