Always look for ways to stay ahead. Whenever you invest in a person by giving them something they need and then they return the favor, you need to immediately start looking for another way to invest. Your goal is always to stay ahead in the giving, whether it is an introduction, a resource, whatever. This puts you in a position to ask for something if and when needed. You may never have to ask and, and, if you do, you may not get any help. That is the chance you have to take. But, it’s about the giving anyway not the taking.
Think of new ways to invest in people. People you know and people you’ve just met. It’s like flexing a muscle to build it up. You have to train yourself (unless it is inherent) to give. Never leave a conversation without asking, “How can I help you?”
There may be a way you can ask that question and genuinely help the person or there may be no way you can help them. But, you have accomplished three things in just asking the question: (1) You have established yourself, in their eyes, as a giver. And (2) you may have just found a way to help them, no matter how small or large the request. And (3) you just found out something about them that is valuable, i.e. they have a need that somebody needs to meet. If you can’t meet or fill that need, store away the request and, if you run across someone that can help, hook ‘em up.
What do I mean when I say give to people you don’t know? There are people that will come across your path that have a small need. Maybe it is a person with their arms full and they just need a little assistance with a door. Someone trying to accomplish a small task where just an extra hand for a few seconds will be a great help. It will cost you a minute of your time but, you will be building the instinct to react and respond to need. I’m not asking you to run into a burning building at this point, just be ready to give. Ready to serve.
Always, no matter how structured your plan, leave room for randomness.
Room for surprise and serendipity: I was driving down Preston Rd. between appointments and had the feeling that there was someone in the Starbucks that I needed to see or meet. It so happened, in that particular instance, I was right. The interaction with a person that I had net seen in a while led to a critical meeting for one of my clients.
Here’s the point: If you are in your car, and have some time on your hands, the only person that is going to open your door and jump in with you is a carjacker! No one that you NEED to meet is going to come to you. You have to get out there “amongst ‘em” if anything is going to happen. You must be in position to both give and receive. Again, if you are in the car, about the only opportunity you are going to have to give (in a face to face way) is to roll down your window and hand a few bucks to a panhandler. Not a good idea. GET OUT OF THE CAR. GET OUT OF THE OFFICE. Go places where everybody is not like YOU! And I’m not talking about a “networking gathering”. Everybody at those things is just like you in that they are trying to meet people that can help them. It is not the blind leading the blind as much as the desperate meeeting the desperate.
Spend a few dollars at the restaurant where you know the person eats that you need to meet. Meet him in the waiting area to get your car from the valet parking guys. And, if you’re cheap, self-park but stand in the line anyway and make small talk. Scour the local newspaper or business journal for events and luncheons where people are going to speak, buy the cheapest ticket you can get and attend. Stand in line and introduce yourself to the speaker.
Do your homework beforehand about the objective of the event. Meet the organizers. Ask if you can help with next year’s event. Seriously, figure out your strategy and execute.