Networking Tip: Ask 'How Can I Help You?'

Focusing on the needs of others can make all the difference when you network.

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Curt Rosengren
With today's economic uncertainty, relationships and the potential doors they open are more important than ever. So it's a wise investment to put time and energy into expanding their reach. And that means networking.

Contrary to a common perception, good networking isn't about who can help you and how. In fact, it's not about you at all. It's about the people you meet. The most amazing networkers I know constantly keep this one question in mind:

"How can I help you?"

Think about it. If you meet someone and you feel like they're focused—at least in part—on you and what you need, how does that make you feel? Probably fairly positive. What's more, it might even make you more inclined to think about how you might be able to help them.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the best way to build support is to give it unconditionally. Should you share with people what you need? Absolutely. Nobody will know how they can help you if you don't tell them. But if you make it a habit to look for opportunities to give, the likelihood that you will end up receiving what you need goes up exponentially.

You might literally ask the question "How can I help you?" when you're talking to someone new, or you might simply ask yourself and keep an eye out for opportunities. For example, you might make an introduction, or share an idea, or help them solve a problem. Or you might send them an article a week later that is relevant to something they said they were interested in.

You won't find a way to help everyone you meet. But if you make a habit of taking a giving approach, it can't help but shine through. And that can't help but help you.

After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As a speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book, 101 Ways to Get Wild About Work, and his E-book, The Occupational Adventure Guide, offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, the M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.