I spent about an hour on the phone yesterday with a real estate agent in Florida, where we hope to move. He’s a neighbor of a work contact of mine, who referred me to him. I didn’t know him, and spoke to him solely based on my work contact’s recommendation – and my work contact was just a loose networking connection, too.
If you try to network thinking of how other people can help YOU, you will not be a successful networker. You have to become useful to others. This real estate agent – I’ll call him Fred – reminded me of that today. With little investment other than spending time talking to me today, he converted me from someone who’s looking for help into someone who’s looking to do a favor. He spent a long time (over an hour) answering every question I had. He sent me emails and gave me other real estate agents’ numbers. He helped even knowing that I was looking to rent rather than buy.
What he did was convert me from someone who wanted something into someone who felt like he wanted to help him. Faced with a half dozen agents in my future hometown, I’d rather give Fred my business. He helped me without asking for anything in return. I know that he considered the fact that I’d appreciate his help, but that kind of thinking can drive you crazy – you can’t always assume that you’ve been helped because of an ulterior motive, despite what Adam Smith said.
The attempt to help others simply because it’s good business, good politics and … quaint as it may seem … just GOOD, is admirable. I’m reminded on a daily basis that offering to help someone without expectation of reward is infinitely rewarding. You can gain personally; you can gain good karma, if you belive in that. I’m enough of a believer in “karma” or “mojo” or “The Force” that I do believe that efforts on behalf of others do return, directly or indirectly, good things to you. So remember the next time that you’re asked for help – or you feel inclined to offer it – that the effort it takes to assist in lieu of compensation is a precious gift, and none of us are too poor to give it.