Are You Networking or Simply Self-Promoting?

BroadcastAs I’ve engaged in discussions on LinkedIn, one thing stands out. Many are confusing networking with self-promotion. The savvy you gain by honing your skills now may grant you opportunities in the future and save you from self-sabotage.

Here’s an example many (women) can relate to. You meet a gentleman who is dressed right, smells good, isn’t bad on the eyes and you strike up a conversation. Within minutes you want to escape. Why? Because his entire conversation centered on himself. He talked about his achievements, his career, the awards he’s received. He may be a charming guy, but with his introduction you’ll never know. You’re already looking for the exit signs.

He would have had a better chance of getting to know you had he focused more attention on you, his audience. I can’t say this enough – the finest people, the most innovative ideas and the best products often get no attention simply because of how they are presented.

[pullquote4 quotes=”true” align=”right”]Get others hooked on your value to them first, then sit back and watch them come back for more.[/pullquote4]Is that how you’re networking? I’ve seen many discussions started here asking for help. If the person posting says she has a difficult boss and needs tips on how to handle her, the response might read, “I had a difficult boss, too. That’s why I started my own business. I now own xyz chains in 15 states and you can, too. Let me tell you how! My website address is . . . and I also . . . but then I . . . blah blah blah.” After reading the first sentence, she’s on to the next post, and most likely won’t be visiting the website or anything else mentioned. Because no matter how useful this person could be, he showed no consideration for the requester. She is only a prospect. And one would have to wonder, if this is how selfish he is in his approach, would this also be the behavior she’d be met with should they do business together?

If the requester was responded to with tips she could use, she’d be more inclined to view this person’s profile, add him to her network and communicate in the future. Now there’s an opportunity for self-promotion. When she thanks him for his help, he could reply with, “You’re welcome. I learned much of this the hard way when I had a boss that was hard to tolerate. I started my own business and I’m happy I did. Check out my website and let me know what you think. If it’s not for you, maybe someone in your network might be interested.” I can assure you, the person who has been helped in a friendly unselfish manner would be pleased to help out in turn.

I’ve always been a natural schmoozer. (See how this works? I offer you tips then I get into ME ME ME.) I have colleagues and bosses that I still keep in touch with from my very first job, even if only once a year for a holiday drink, but when an opportunity arises, I’m the first to get a call. Not because I hit them over the head every chance I get with my achievements or latest ventures. Rather, it’s because I don’t. I ask about the kids, the wife’s pottery class, make notes of ventures they’re pursuing and occasionally send a link to an article that might help them in that pursuit. That is networking and it is successful. You don’t want people to see your email or your number and think, “What is it this time?” You want people to be glad you’ve contacted them, excited to hear from you, pleased to help you.

I recall a show I saw years ago about the drug epidemic and I never forgot the commentary. It was said that often the drug dealers would offer their customers a little something for free, just to give ‘em a taste. Next thing they knew, customers were pounding on their doors – they were hooked. That salesmanship and attitude is the same you should have here and in all your networking endeavors. Get others hooked on your value to them first, then sit back and watch them come back for more. 

I look forward to your comments!

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  • Stephanie Jiroch

    I agree 100%! The worst is when someone ONLY speaks about themselves. By offering up something to the other person first, you open the doors to greater opportunities (in my opinion). Great post and love your analogy at the end!

    • Thank you, Stephanie. It *is* unnerving when someone just brain dumps all about him- or herself and then expects the listener to stay engaged.

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  • Great piece Patricia! You hit the nail right on the head. A lot of people today are not really interacting nor engaging with the opportunities currently provided to us by social networking platforms. Be of value and show interest in others and you’ll surely be appreciated and rewarded by the brand you build along the way.

  • Thank you for your comment on LinkedIn. I stopped by to read your post. You have showed these critical points in a clear way I can relate to; and with me many others.

    When we aren’t in such a hurry; we actually have time to engage with people. One encounter may simply spark another, because it is so simple to remember a person that has had an impact on you. Good interactions are invitations to connections somewhere in the now or in the future.

  • Great article! Congrats on being picked up by Forbes Woman.

    You made some excellent points, I’ve gotten away from checking this site on a regular basis because of everyone’s self-promotion. It’s wonderful to read something useful.

  • Thanks for the illustration. I also read your post “Rethinking LinkedIn – It’s a Tool, Not a Toy” and found it very insightful. I’m glad you took the time to share your thoughts.

  • Very good. Your wisdom is priceless.

  • Love it love it love it. That is exactly what I have been trying to tell some of my co-horts that come to me and ask why they can not get anyone to join in the quest for financial freedom with them.
    Very well said Patricia and keep providing solid insight.

    Jimmy R Williams
    The Methodical Marketer

  • Antonio Ruivo

    That´s the best post I haver read on this subject!
    I hope everybody get the powerful message of your post. Most of the people must go back to…the Dale Carnegie old books about how to make friends…that’s was the old way, but it works.
    Keep going on…your networking lessons.
    Thank you!

  • Well I have to agree with the comments about Twitter and Facebook. This is a great article and I could not agree more with the original thoughts. Listening and caring about the speaker’s statements goes a long way.I’ll take that one step further and say that if you really care about the other person as a person rather than just a contact or prospect it will show.

  • I think one of the attitudes that’s important in networking VS self-promoting is one of abundance. If we realize that we don’t have to compete for every little thing, we are more likely to be giving rather than taking. Networking is definitely a two way interaction when it’s really working.