Be the “Santa Claus” of Intangibles!

In my blog entry a few days ago, I praised Liz Lynch (author of Smart Networking) for her wonderfully simple advice to those job hunters (and other folks) who want to be reciprocal in their networking efforts, but feel they just don’t have all that much to give, at least of a tangible nature.  Her advice?  When all else fails, you should focus on giving people a feeling that they’ll enjoy, cherish, and remember.

Maya Angelou once made a similar observation, which a good friend of mine recently reminded me about.  Ms. Angelou remarked: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Do these statements hold true in your own life?  Can you cite instances of where somebody did a good turn by you, however small, that made your day and impacted you in a positive way you’ll remember for the rest of your life?  I know that I do.  And if you don’t, boy, I’m not really sure what to say.  All I can assume is that you must be wired pretty differently from the rest of us…

So if you’re a professional in transition, trying to master the subtleties of the networking process, I’d urge you to heed the above thoughts and observations carefully.  In my experience, they represent one of the most significant realizations that can help a person take their networking efforts to an entirely new level, both in terms of their short-term job hunting prospects as well as their long-term career success.  In all likelihood, after all, you’re going to be rubbing elbows with hundreds of different individuals throughout the course of your search.  And the one thing all of these people have in common is that they’re human beings — and few human beings have a maximum upper threshold in terms of how much appreciation they enjoy receiving, as long as they perceive it to be genuine in nature.

So while it can be hard to think beyond your own immediate wants and needs during the turbulence of an employment search, you should strive to develop your “giving” muscles and to focus on ways that you can consistently uplift and raise the spirits of those around you.  Do you routinely go out of your way to make the people around you feel respected?  Important?  Appreciated?  Entertained?  Special?  Helpful?  Or that they’ve made a difference in your life or job search?  If not, it’s never too late to learn, since there are a near-infinite amount of ways that you can impart these feelings to people and the good news is that they”re all free — or nearly free, depending on the gesture.

On that note, here’s a list of some simple and proven techniques you can add to your networking repertoire, until you develop your own signature methods:

— Remember people’s names and use them often (Was it Dale Carnegie who said our own names are the sweetest music our ears ever hear?)
— Send a handwritten thank you card expressing genuine appreciation for the person’s time (this display of gratitude never gets old)
— Surprise somebody with a LinkedIn endorsement, letter of recommendation, or another form of written testimonial (not just a nice gesture, but a potentially profitable one for the other party, as well)
— Make a thoughtful, relevant introduction on somebody’s behalf (tells a person you’re proud to have them in your network)
— Point out the qualities you admire in a person (don’t overdo it, of course, but sincere flattery can get you everywhere at times…)
— Pass along a book, article, CD, or some other small token gift that you know a person will enjoy (shows you listened to what they like and care about)
— Make a donation to a person’s favorite charity (if not immediately, then down the road, when asked, without hesitating)
— Put a person’s advice to good use and then circle back around, a week or two later, with an update (home run! home run!)
— Express genuine appreciation for people’s time; don’t act obligated or entitled to their assistance (sadly, this behavior still stands out; I can’t tell you how many contacts of mine have told me they’ve been “stood up” by other people lately who asked them for their help)
— Give the gift of your full, undivided attention (as above, it’s sad that this gesture will differentiate you from others, but trust me, it will)
— Offer to return the favor, however possible, down the road (shows that you recognize the value of what you were given)

This is just the tip of the iceberg, folks.  There are so many other examples I could share of where savvy networkers have found imaginative and inexpensive ways to make a person’s day and make themselves “memorable” for all the right reasons.  In fact, if you yourself have been the recipient of any such gestures, I’d urge you to submit a comment on this posting and share your story with the rest of us.  Speaking for myself, I know that I can personally recount dozens of people who have made a lasting positive impression on me through some small gesture or the other, over the years, and that these people hold a “special status” in my life/business sphere that money alone could never, ever buy…

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