Guest submission by Derek Coburn
I am constantly meeting professionals who boast about their “network” or Rolodex, and promise that they can connect me to just about anyone. They say that if I look at their LinkedIn connections and see someone who could help me, they’ll “try” to make an introduction. The funny thing is that most of these so-called connectors have a list (huge ones, in some cases) of connections they barely know. It could be someone they met at a networking function for 30 seconds, or someone who found their profile interesting and wanted to “connect.”
Anyone who makes this kind of offer (especially if you make it easy for them to recommend you) is still adding more potential value than someone who makes no offer at all – but there’s an important caveat: you have to do the work. And there is a real possibility that you will invest a lot of time scanning their contacts only to find out that they barely know the person you want to meet.
The definition of “connect,” according to Merriam-Webster, is to become joined, which gets me thinking about how people become meaningfully joined – or connected – professionally. I don’t think it matters how many people you have in your Rolodex as much as how well you actually know each of them and how you can help them. It’s not how many people you know. It’s how much you know about them. When I connect two people, I do so because I genuinely believe there will be a mutual benefit. I do this proactively (500+ times over the past 18 months), and I try to frame the introduction in a way that suggests where the connection should go.
The difference between being a connector and being someone who offers to connect is analogous to being a matchmaker vs. Match.com. With Match.com, the burden is on you, and due to the lack of knowledge that Match.com has regarding whether someone is a good fit for you, this process (from what I am told) usually does not work. On the other hand, a matchmaker is selective about who they work with and takes the time to get to know you and learn more about what you’re looking for. If you make the offer to connect (like performing the function of Match.com), you’re at least in the right ballpark – as opposed to not offering at all, which is more like wandering into a singles bar when you want to meet someone who’s looking for a relationship.
In business, people who are true connectors, and not just blindly offering up their Rolodex, may not extend an open invitation. But when they make an introduction, all parties involved can see why it makes sense to connect with the other person. The connector knows what each person brings to the table, and exactly how they can benefit one another.
If you have the best of intentions when offering to make introductions, I would encourage you to take it just one step further and proactively look for ways to connect people. You can add a lot of value and be a hero in the minds of these individuals when you do this authentically.
Check out all of Derek’s blogs here.