Not everyone is a good networker.
Some people just try too hard. They go to events, wear the nametag, keep a stack full of business cards in their pocket, and run around the room with something to prove. Other people do the opposite, and keep so much to themselves that no one really knows what they do.
Networking isn't about either of those things. Effective networking, not just in business but in life, is all about building meaningful relationships. And in order to do that, you have to change your thinking from, "Who can I meet that will help me?" to "How can I help the next person?"
Ask any successful entrepreneur about their "networking mindset," and this is how they operate. They think in terms of value--and not what they can take, but what they can give. When I was chatting with Chris Cavallini, founder of Nutrition Solutions, an eight-figure meal preparation company with a nationwide presence, this same mindset was at the forefront of everything he did--from growing his business, to even his own personal development.
"I have been able to create opportunities for myself based off the impressions that I've left on people, and the things I've done to help others," he said. "If I had to give the next entrepreneur some advice, it would be to start by being a good human being. Think about that, and what it means, and then reverse engineer the steps it will take to make that happen."
He went on to share three things that can help shift any entrepreneur's mindset into a positive one, with a focus on giving first:
1. Look for ways you can help people that don't necessarily benefit from you directly.
"This is really hard for most people," said Cavallini. "We live in a selfish, self-serving society. And it's unfortunate because if people really understood the positive consequences of looking to help other people, we would all be far more successful."
He explained that one of the best ways to shift your mindset into a giving one is to aim to be that person who answers the phone in the middle of the night when somebody calls you, or be the one to give someone a ride to the airport when they need a ride.
"Tiny little gestures like that can be so rewarding, but also start to really ingrain this idea that being a good human being, first, will take you much farther in life. Anybody can pretend to be friendly when they're hungry to make a sale. That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying, help the person in need--not the person you want to buy from you."
2. Hold no expectations.
Cavallini pointed out that he has given this advice to dozens of people, and that they usually give it a shot, but then give up as soon as someone doesn't give them something in return.
"Expectations are the worst things you can carry," he said. "They're heavy. They don't do anything for you. The key is to live without expectations, and to help people without needing anything in return. No ulterior motive. No agenda. Just trust that if you are good to others, the good will come back to you."
Cavallini shared how this mindset has shifted his own life, and the fact that he grew up with nothing. His father wasn't around, his mother suffered with addictions, and he spent a fair amount of his childhood in foster care, group homes, and getting arrested. (He was arrested 17 times prior to his 18th birthday.)
Today, Cavallini is as successful of an entrepreneur as the rest of them.
3. Write down a giving-goal, and work toward that.
"I say this all the time, but you have to give back to your community. I think this is something I'm really aware of, considering my upbringing, but one of the goals that I write down every day--and I write it in the past tense, as if it has already happened--is, "I donated one million dollars this year to charity and miscellaneous good causes." That is something that I will do one day in the very near future, and I write it down so that I can see it through," he said.
This idea of writing down your goal and keeping it at the forefront of your mind is a crucial part of bringing an aspiration to life. But to Cavallini's point, one approach is to write it in the past tense, as if it has already happened, so that you can believe even more in its potential--and your ability to deliver on that giving-goal.
"That positive energy, that school of thought, that direction action, it comes back. And when it does come back to you, it's in massive abundance," he said. "You want to build relationships with other people, and look for ways that you can serve them on a higher level with no expectation of anything in return. Do that consistency, and see what happens."