Effective Networking (Be Selfless)

by Darius Kazemi on October 25, 2006

in networking

Networking is about being opportunistic.

But it’s not about being selfish. If anything, it’s the opposite.

Create the Conditions

I’ll side track with a brief story. There’s a screenplay by Robert Anton Wilson called The Walls Came Tumbling Down. Not one of his better works, but one part has stuck with me since I read it in ’97. The main character goes from being a scientist to being this super-wise shaman guy. By the end of the book, everyone thinks he’s a real magician. Someone asks him how he’s able to make all this crazy stuff happen, and his response is something along the lines of, “I don’t make anything happen. I just create the conditions.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself: excellent networkers create conditions.

Don’t ask for a job. Create the conditions so that you inevitably get recommended to potential employers. Don’t suck up to people. Create the conditions so that they have no choice but to genuinely like you. Don’t waste your time waiting in line to speak to someone famous for five seconds. Create the conditions so that you get invited to dinner with them.

And you create these conditions by being selfless.

Being Selfless, or, Being Globally Selfish

When I try to illustrate weak ties, I often use the example where there are ten people you know, but not very well at all. But you know that one of them is a guy who does research on serious games. And you know that another one is thinking of getting into that sector. You introduce them, and all of a sudden you have their gratitude. And you did nothing but send them both a brief email.

This is the kind of selflessness that I’m talking about. You’re helping others without getting anything tangible in return. I suppose you could say it’s selfish, but it’s sort of like saying that the guy who volunteers at the soup kitchen is selfish because volunteering makes him feel good.

As Darren once said to me, “You just expand your sense of self so broadly that all acts become selfish.”

This is why I don’t disagree when people say that networking is about being opportunistic. I just make sure to let them know that it’s about seizing opportunities for other people every bit as much as it is about seizing opportunities for yourself.

{ 1 comment }

Darren Torpey October 25, 2006 at 2:56 am

Yeah, originally it was the core argument of the longest (and probably best) paper I ever wrote for a philosophy class. The paper was for Roger Gottlieb‘s Philosophy and the Environment class and my paper was arguing that Deep Ecology (that is, a genuine sense of concern for and desire to nurture the environment) can only truly be achieved by expanding your sense of personal well-being (self) to include your environment.

I remember when that came up while we were talking about how someone can be genuinely selfish and selfless (by usual standards) at the same time. One might speculate that this is the key ingredient required for “win-win” thinking to really work in the long run — both parties have to perceive the others’ interests as part of their interests, too.

Just a thought…

By the way, I remember enjoying Walls when you lent it to me. Though I agree that it’s not his strongest work, I think that’s just a testament to how good his strongest works are.

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