It’s Not About You: 10 Ways to Improve Your Networking

Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison explains how giving to others can widen your circle.

Gary Burnison is CEO of Korn Ferry and author of Lose the Resume, Land the Job. For more information, see

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if you want to be successful at networking, you must keep in mind that it really isn’t about you. It’s about building relationships—and relationships aren’t one-way streets.

Ideally, networking is about what you can do for others. After all, you aren’t going to get far if you’re calling someone out of nowhere—whom you haven’t spoken to in five years—and asking for help. And yet, this happens all the time. Think of it like a “give a penny, take a penny” tray: you can’t really take one out if you haven’t, at some point, put one in.

With that in mind, here’s a list of 10 things you can do to boost your networking acumen to the next level.

  1. Whom can you help? Do you know someone who is looking for a job? If so, perhaps the two of you can brainstorm ways of introducing him or her to someone else you know.
  2. Who in your network have similar interests? Sometimes, finding common connections, professionally and personally, can help you think of whom to connect.
  3. Whose child can you offer to help? Maybe you’ve heard that the son or daughter of someone you know is thinking of applying to your alma mater or is looking to enter a field similar to yours.
  4. Who has written a blog or commentary that you can share on social media? You can leave a meaningful reply to the post. (This one is especially helpful if you are networking “up” the line with someone a few levels above you.)
  5. If you blog or write a newsletter, whom can you interview to gain their perspective on a topic? If you’re well followed, this can help establish your contacts as subject-matter experts.
  6. What skill do you have to offer someone? Are you good at social media? Can you set up a simple website? Can you be a sounding board for someone who is launching a business?
  7. Whom should you congratulate? Think of someone with a particular accomplishment or life event—a new job, an engagement or marriage, a new house, a new baby.
  8. Can you recommend a new restaurant, an art exhibit, or a good book to someone? Don’t make your recommendation seem random. Let the person know why you thought of him or her.
  9. Whom can you invite to a professional or cultural event? This is a great way to reconnect with former colleagues or other people you haven’t seen in a while.
  10. Do you know someone who is involved in a charity or community event and needs a volunteer? Giving yourself, even for a few hours, is an excellent way to nurture your network and meet new people in a different context.

Remember that networking can be a psychological balancing act. Call it karma, paying it forward, or whatever you’d like. But when you need people’s help, the more people you’ve helped in the past, the more likely it is that they’ll step up to help you.