Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha, the authors of “The Start-Up of You”, wrote an excellent treatment of networking and the value of connections. Hoffman is a partner at Greylock (a Leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm) and founder and Executive Chairman at LinkedIn. He was also a prophetic early investor in Facebook, Zynga and others. So, he might know a thing or two about this subject. He writes about the transactional nature of “old school” networkers who are in a relentless quest to pick-up business cards. He contrasts this style to the “new age” connectors that are more focused on the care and feeding of those relationships that they value most.
Their premise is that based on the limits of the human capacity, we can either have fewer high quality connections with pivotal leaders that can fundamentally improve the quality of our business or personal lives, or we can have infinitely more surface contacts, each with very little skin in the game. Think about your photography mindset when you set out to capture an important event on a memory card – if you desire truly high definition photos for later use and enjoyment, you know that fewer of them will fit on the card. Relationships, in essence are the same. However, to be truly successful, you must take a “pay-it-forward” approach. Relationship-builders try to help others first. They don’t keep score – they simply offer a “gift” before they ask for one. That “gift” can be an unsolicited idea or contact or even gratis work in a perceived area of need. The “gift” shouldn’t be an expensive offering from a high-end merchant – that looks like graft. Instead it is a meaningful gesture that sincerely helps that targeted individual in a way that demonstrates your potential value to them.
So look around. Who do you value? Who do you want to value you? Extend the hand of friendship before you extend your hand of need.