In most industries and professions, there are plenty of other people who do what you do. You need social capital in order to get recognized, remembered, recommended … and hired.
Social capital is generated when you invest in your relationships, by being as valuable as you possibly can be in your network. That means knowing and recommending others, and becoming engaged in your networks so that you’re seen as an invaluable resource.
We all engage with people on multiple different levels, starting with making pleasant conversation and “getting to know” someone, and gradually building up to profound levels of trust. There’s substantial social capital in being regarded as an individual of great integrity – someone who’s known, liked and trusted.
In short, social capital measures the degree of influence which we have through our networks. It’s crucial to your success in business, and to the sense of meaning in your life.
Networking is the means through which you gain social capital. I’m not going to waste your time by going over the basics – I’ll assume that you already know how to dress and behave appropriately, for instance, and that you’ve got a stack of business cards ready.
These are in-depth, expert ways to truly maximize your social capital:
You already know that networking is about giving to others – and this is especially crucial when you’re building up your social capital.
But how exactly do you go about giving? A great start is to use these three tools to truly listen to the people who you meet. These are techniques which I’ve been using for my entire life. They’re very simple tools, which I teach to my clients – but they’re also very powerful.
#1: Using Open-Ended Questions
To show interest in what others think and believe, use open-ended questions – ones which start with who, what, when, where and how. People like it when we’re interested in them. They are their very favorite subject.
Take a piece of the other person’s answer and weave it into your next open-ended question. This technique is called “layering” and it lets you get more and more depth. It requires careful listening – and when we listen to people, we honor them. This makes them feel terrific. So stop rushing, and pay attention. Really grasp what the other person is saying.
#3: The Sound of Silence
We’re not talking about the Simon & Garfunkle song here. “The sound of silence” means giving people enough space to fully express themselves. When they can do this, they feel very connected to you – it creates a deep, profound relationship.
By leaving pauses in the conversation, especially after you’ve asked a question, you create an opening for self-expression. This means that the other person will be able to express their thoughts, opinions, ideas, points of view and perspective – helping them to feel connected to you.
Helping Your Prospects
Maybe you have a tendency to go into a networking event as though looking through a colored lens, trying to magically identify the prospects who’ll be a good fit for you.
This isn’t a good way to network. It doesn’t matter whether or not anyone can make a contribution back to you: by helping them, you’ll be making a social capital deposit into the world. And, at some point, the world will give you back what you need.
How do you help others? You can:
#1: Ask Powerful Questions
Try to establish what a good opportunity, prospect or resource would look like for someone. Ask them open-ended questions like:
- What were you hoping to accomplish?
- What would be a benefit for you?
- Where do you see yourself in your career as it evolves?
- How do you want to approach entering this new field?
- Who would you like to meet?
Avoid using why questions so that you don’t come across as judgmental. “Why did you make that decision?” seems confrontational but “What were the factors that helped you come to that conclusion?” is much softer and less challenging.
#2: Offer a “Pre-ferral”
A pre-ferral is like a referral – but without the risk. Making a referral can make someone feel bad (you’re telling them that they need help) but a pre-ferral is less pressured.
A pre-ferral means introducing two people who may have something of interest in common, and who may be of mutual benefit to one another. All you’re saying to your prospect is that “having a conversation with this person would be worthwhile.”
#3: Share Useful Resources
When we’re networking/interacting, we’re simply trying to share value with people. For instance, if I read a good book on a subject relative to an area you wanted to work on, then I might recommend that to you.
When we help others in this way, we’re making a deposit and a contribution – building our social capital. Through the resources that we’ve garnered and through our relationships, we can be of value and of service to others.
Whenever you go to a networking event, walk into the room with an attitude of generosity and contribution. Tell yourself “I’m here to give something” – which helps take the pressure off you, and helps put you in the right frame of mind to build up a truly rich store of social capital.
What will you be doing to build your social capital? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.
Barry Demp is a highly-skilled Michigan Business and Personal coach. He specializes in helping small business owners, executives, consultants and other professionals to boost their productivity, profitability, and life balance.