Beyond Starbucks Cards: Rethinking Your Value in Networking

Beyond Starbucks Cards: Rethinking Your Value in Networking

Many people, especially those just starting out, believe they have nothing to offer when reaching out to network. They often wonder, "Why would someone more established want to connect with me when I'm just beginning and have fewer connections?" 

Unfortunately, those who stand to gain the most from networking—like new grads, career switchers, etc.—frequently hold this belief. 

In contrast, seasoned professionals are more proactive in networking because they recognize their value. Here’s the secret though… you have a lot more to offer than you might think. Everyone, from fresh interns to seasoned managers, possesses unique qualities/offerings that can greatly enhance their networking efforts!

Redefining what you can offer

You begin brainstorming what you can offer. You immediately think, “well I kind of know that person. Maybe I can offer that connection up?” Or, “I know.. I’ll buy them a gift!” Or, “I’ll work for them for free in exchange for some advice.”

We immediately start with these offerings, but the truth is, you have a lot more to offer, which is likely of greater value than a $10.00 Starbucks gift card. For instance, you can share your perspective on a trend, insights, etc. Some of the best value you can offer someone more senior is fresh eyes on a problem they might have, or insights into a new trend impacting their industry. 

It’s all about thinking out of the box, and beyond the transactional.

Gratitude: Your Underrated Superpower

In a world where everyone is chasing targets, deadlines, and promotions, a heartfelt 'thank you' is rarer than a virtual call where someone doesn’t say, “can you hear me okay” at the start of the meeting. But this simple gesture carries immense power. When someone helps you, taking a moment to genuinely thank them not only brightens their day but can also cement your place in their memory.

It’s worth stating; I really mean genuine expressions of gratitude. A simple, “Thanks again for making time” is not the same as, “Susan, I so appreciated our conversation around headless commerce. Your perspective gave me a lot to think about. I really enjoyed hearing how you entered the field, and I’ve already implemented some of your advice this week!”. Different.

Public recognition also goes a long way here. Maybe at work, you draft a quick post thanking someone for making time to chat with you, and offering insights on your career journey. Now, this doesn’t mean for EVERY coffee chat you spam Linkedin with a “I just wanted to thank Julie for speaking with me for 15 minutes.” 

Public recognition also doesn’t have to be via posts online. At your next offsite, you could take a moment to share with people how Tim from procurement has really acted as a mentor to you. Of course, you want to do this organically, but expressing this gratitude publicly will certainly mean a lot. In sharing our thanks publicly,  you're bolstering your mentor’s reputation, making them feel valued, and in the process, creating a lasting impression.

You won’t know until you try

The smallest of offerings, whether it be a shared hobby and you offer to help them with XYZ, or you’re into the Dodgers, and they are too, so you send them a quick reminder the game is coming up, etc. all of these can go a long way. What’s more is that these offerings feel more genuine, and less transactional. The best part? Everyone, no matter the stage of their career, has something to offer.

Professional life isn’t just about climbing the corporate ladder; it's also about the relationships you build along the way. Don’t be confined by the classic definitions of 'value.' Dive deep into the reservoir of your experiences, insights, and genuine emotions. Remember, value isn't always about the grand gestures; sometimes, it’s found in a simple 'thank you' or a shared laugh over a mutual interest. So, identify your unique assets, and remember – you have more to offer than you think!