Networking is About Teaching and Giving


Successful people have three things in common: motivation, ability, and opportunity.  There is a fourth factor, though, that is critical but often neglected: success depends heavily on how we approach our interactions with other people. (Adam Grant – Give & Take)

How are you approaching your interactions with other people? Adopting a mindset of teaching and giving will pave the way to better outcomes and help you build an open network.

Whether your interactions with others are face to face or virtual, your intent and purpose are the same: to teach the other person about who you are and learn as much as you can about them.

Consider: what do you find most challenging in your current role? Whether I asked you this question face to face or in a virtual setting, would your answer be any different? Your answer might teach me some or all of the following:

  • Something about what you do 
  • Some of the skills you possess
  • Something about the way you think about problems
  • What your challenges are, and if there is there something I know that can help you


We have many types of interactions with different kinds of people many times a day. The Relationships Stages document identifies the different types of conversations we have with other people.

At each stage of the relationship building process, while we are building trust, the conversations we’re having can be had face to face or virtually. Some examples are:

  • A new connection on LinkedIn
  • A new colleague at work
  • A discussion with a friend via social media or via text message
  • Conversations at a family gathering
  • An in-person or virtual networking event in your profession
  • A phone call with someone who has been introduced to you by a friend.

In the first few conversations you have with another person, both of your brains automatically begin to evaluate the other person. Consider: how is the other person “showing up”? What can you learn from the other person? How are you approaching your interaction with each other? 

If you get a positive sense of the other person’s character and competence, you begin to develop a level of trust. If over time both of you continue to experience each other’s character and competence, that level of trust grows into a mutually beneficial relationship.  Notice how, in the Relationship Stages diagram, as you move from Accidents to Allies, the level of risk in the conversation decreases and the level of trust increases.


How can you learn about the other person? Be seriously curious and ask questions! Questions to help you learn about who the other person is and what’s important to them:

  • Tell me more about your current role? 
  • What are the current projects/challenges you are working on?
  • What are you enjoying most about your job right now?  Why?
  • What does it feel like to work at ……? 
  • What’s the biggest lesson learned in your role as _____?
  • What’s something unexpected you’ve learned or done in the past month/year?

See the additional Stop & Think Questions for more questions you can ask as you engage in conversation with a new connection.

The more you learn about the person you’re speaking with, the greater likelihood that you can help or give back to them. This is called “listen for the give.” Maybe the give is in the moment – “I just saw an article you may be interested in,” or “I have to introduce you to John, he’s an expert in what you are working on.”  Maybe the give is a week later, a month later, or even years down the road! For me, I told a colleague about my dream job in a conversation, and two years later, she called to tell me about an opportunity in that field! Never underestimate the power of the give.


When you ask question during an initial meeting, you begin to learn about the other person and what they do.  You learn about “what is above the water line”.  If you feel this is someone you want to have more of a relationship with and get to know better, then you need to learn about “what is below the water line,” which takes time.  After a number of conversations, you each get a good sense of each other’s character and competence. The best possible outcome is for you and your networking partner is to become advocates for one another.

So, how many advocates should you have in the open network you build? As many as possible!

Do you know how many advocates you have in your network today?  Find out in the Vern’s next blog, coming up on Friday, August 14.

Additional reading: The 8 Competencies of Networking: the skills and behaviors needed to become a master networker.  Feel free to get in touch with questions at

Vern Schellenger (P’02), Principal Consultant, Contacts Count

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