A new term has popped up in my work with companies and associations: “Networking Unicorns“. While many people have felt isolated and lonely during the pandemic and the push for “social distancing”, others have grown their networks and seen their human connections thrive. These people have worked hard to make, keep, and grow their business (and personal) relationships. The results are their businesses have grown and new career opportunities have appeared.
A “Networking Unicorn” is rare, because most people I have surveyed admit that they have not done a great job at keeping in contact with people in their networks, much less make many strong new connections. Networking is difficult for some in any situation, but add a global pandemic and the suspension of most in-person events, and the problem grows.
The people who are very engaged and engaging in how they interact with people always seem to find more opportunities. But people who do this well, without being smarmy, self-serving, or too sale focused are not the norm. They are so rare we can call them Unicorns. In my work I have only encountered a handful of these people. I am not one of them, as much as I wish it true. Being really that focused on serving others and knowing in our heart that your time will come is not as common as we think.
Many people think they are Networking Unicorns, but they are fooling themselves. You cannot self appoint yourself into this position, others must decide that you have reached that level. And many who come close end up missing the mark because they are having to try to hard to really not be a jerk to some of the people they encounter. One person I know goes out of her way to be nice and helpful, but complains to her close friends about others behind their back and keeps score of what others are doing in return to each gesture. That is not “Unicorn” behavior.
How To Be A Networking Unicorn
To be a “Networking Unicorn” takes a commitment to being engaged with people and finding ways to help others. During 2020 and into 2021 many people saw serious disruptions to their careers. Those looking for jobs are seeing few opportunities while the competition is huge. Depending on industries, many who rely on human to human proximity to deliver their products or services have seen major declines in business.
Regardless of if your industry and career have been negatively impacted, you have the ability to help others who are in need. But if you are not reaching out and discovering who is facing real problems, and learning what would help them, then you are simply assuming how they are handling life and business during COVID-19.
- The first step to being a real “Networking Unicorn” is to pick up the phone and have personal contact with people in your network. This is not about sending an email newsletter or text blast to everyone at once. Real unicorns do things differently than the masses, and getting back to the basics of human engagement is the key to success.
- The second step to being a “Networking Unicorn” is to find ways to help others excel. Our social media broadcast culture of the last few years has lead to much of what we see from others being self-oriented. “Buy my stuff”, “Like my post”, “Smash that retweet button” (and share my stuff), etc…. But the people who stand out the most to me (and those I have surveyed) are those who are generally interested in others and give freely. Author Bob Berg wrote a book called “The Go Giver” and Professor Adam Grant wrote the book “Give and Take” – both of which show how those who serve others wind up getting more opportunities over a lifetime.
- The third step to being a “Networking Unicorn” is to find the other unicorns and work together to better each other. Not everyone will seek mutually beneficial relationships, but this is a strong desire of the “Networking Unicorns”. The real givers out there are getting sick of the takers, so find you tribe. In this case the tribe can be people from any age group, ethnic background, gender, industry, personal interests, etc… These are just the people who understand that helping others in of itself is a win.
- The fourth step
(More coming soon on the topic of Networking Unicorns