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Best Advice I Ever Got: Dan Schawbel

The founder of Millennial Branding offers his best advice for building lasting relationships that turn into business opportunities (not one-night stands).
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Start-up founders and employees need to learn the rules for building relationships quickly so they can profit off them (instead of turning people off). Dan Schawbel shares his three rules of relationship-building below.

You've heard hundreds of times that networking is essential to a founder's success. Sometimes people like to say that your network is your net worth. Personally, I believe that a network is more valuable than money and time because it creates both--if used properly. We've moved from an information economy to a social one, in which the most successful people are those who have the largest and the most engaged network. Who you know, who they know, and who knows you is just as important, if not more important, than what you know.

With a strong network, you become more employable and more valuable--and your personal brand will flourish. The problem most people have is that they don't fully understand how to start meeting people, exchanging value, and then leveraging those relationships to take their careers and businesses to the next level. Most of my success is tied to my ability to develop relationships that matter.

Here are my three rules for relationship building:

1. Find the right people and connect with them authentically.

Most people don't put much effort into thinking about who they need to meet. Instead, they decide to just meet everyone. That's not a great networking strategy. It's better to be very specific about the people you want to build a relationship with. Figure out who can most benefit from your services, skills, and expertise, and who you can provide the right value to in exchange.

Luckily, the Internet has made targeting easier because you have access to information about everyone in the world from your computer. For example, before attending a conference, see who else is attending and find people who you want in your network. Then, at the event, spend your entire time with them.

It's wise to invest all of your time in a few people than to try and meet everyone. If you want to convert handshakes into new career and business opportunities, then you have to focus on fewer people. In addition, if you target specific people, it will be easier to get along with them because you'll be more likely to have mutual interests and goals. Besides, no one wants to connect with someone who is fake or manipulative. Be yourself, have a positive attitude, and go into networking situations ready to support other people rather than trying to take what you need from them.

2. Give value to others.

When I interviewed the former world boxing champion George Foreman, he told me that his most successful business deals were created out of mutual benefit. He further explained that if one party benefits more than the other, it won't become a long-term business relationship. He would know: More than 100 million of his Foreman Grills have been sold since 1994.

Unfortunately, the number one problem people have in networking situations is that they are out for themselves. That approach never works, and it certainly doesn’t work in today’s connected world.  As the late Zig Ziglar famously said, “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”

When I work with companies like American Express and Ernst & Young, I always try to think about how I can provide more, and give them more than they expect, to ensure that they're benefiting from my services. If someone doesn't benefit as much as you do, they will feel cheated and will be much less likely to help you in the future. In order to give, however, you first have to know what the other person is looking for. You also need to know what skills, connections, and resources you have that can solve their problems. You could, for example, promote them on your blog or give them a free consulting session.

Whatever it is, the more you do for others, the more you will get in return.

3. Don't lose touch with your contacts.

Just because you've met someone new doesn't mean that they will help you out down the road. You have to constantly remind people that you exist and emphasize what you can do for them. Maintaining a relationship takes work and commitment, and technology has made it so easy to reconnect with your network that if you aren't taking advantage of it, you're really missing out. Again, the more you invest in people, the more they will invest in you--and the easier it will be to advance those relationships into career and business advancement opportunities.

Dan Schawbel is a Gen Y career and workplace expert, the Founder of Millennial Branding, and the author of the new book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin's Press). He made the Inc. Magazine 30 Under 30 in 2010 and the Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30 in 2012.

IMAGE: monsterww / Flickr.com
Last updated: Sep 3, 2013




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