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“Give first, and ask last. It’s that simple!” Gail Eckert tells us. “When you meet someone, your first question should always be ‘what can I do for you?’ It’s about authenticity, and authenticity starts with giving, not taking.”
Gail is a master of building relationships: a natural extrovert with an open manner, she excels at free-flowing conversations. You might guess that her rich network is a direct result of her overall ease with people, but that wouldn’t be the whole truth.
Gail works closely with clients and candidates at Summit Search Group, making matches for long-term success. Her secret? We sat down with Gail to find out, and learn more about igniting our networks with a little bit of magic during this season of giving – and every day beyond.
Give First: Networking for Lasting Impact
“It’s a natural extrovert’s game, of course: I’m so curious about people. I like talking to people. Don’t be afraid of meeting someone new!” Gail laughs. For her, networking isn’t built on tricks or strategies – it’s just a way of being around other people. “There’s a definite misconception about what networking is: it’s about giving first. Make sure you offer something valuable in every exchange, so that the people you meet take something away that’s really worthwhile and impactful. There might not be anything in it for you, and that’s okay.”
Gail emphasizes that paying it forward is a state of mind: do what you can, when you can, and trust that your network will come through when you need it. “Helping someone might take two seconds of your time. Do it without expectation.”
Key Tips to Make Networking Events Meaningful
“Most importantly, ‘working the room’ is nothing close to networking. It’s not genuine. People see right through it. Even worse, you don’t leave an event feeling you’ve provided value when you approach it that way, and you don’t make an impact. You can’t measure success based on business cards that you’ve collected,” Gail adds.
She doesn’t even take business cards to events anymore. “I go to events to learn, and to connect with people. You can tell when people aren’t fully engaged at an event: they’re always looking over their shoulder for the next person to meet. You never truly have their attention, and it’s noticeable.”
Gail’s tip? Focus on investing in conversations and bringing warmth to the room. Don’t worry about locking in leads and stacking up contacts at an event. Meet great people, and reach out to them in the following days to stay in touch. “Remember, opportunities to network pop up when you least expect them,” she adds. “I talk to people in elevators, and I share resources in groups on LinkedIn. Never pass up a chance to bring value; be interesting and interested.”
The Care and Keeping of Your Network
Gail stays in touch with most of the candidates she’s placed over time, with an active presence in the industry conversation. But she’s quick to note that caring for your network might not come naturally to you. “In the end, it’s all about trying, and it’s about being genuine and authentic. It’s fine to have a formula, or a strategy, to help you along.”
Here are her tips for a little help with building momentum, especially if networking just isn’t your thing.
1. Make notes if you need them.
“Introverts are certainly better listeners than extroverts and gather better information. Use this to your advantage, and remember to have the confidence to pick up the phone and follow-up later!”
2. Check on your connections.
“Interaction can start small; it will come to you! Put in the work. Thoughtful outreach, however brief, will be rewarded with deeper relationships, and that adds up to a big impact over time.”
3. It’s not a numbers game.
“The value of your network has so little to do with its size: it’s all about the investment. Don’t let numbers distract you from real value. For example, I have a broad network because I have varying interests: my career spans different industries, my interests span different industries, and I have a diversity of experience. That’s a personal strength, not a sales Rolodex.”
Offer Your Best, Boost Your Network
“Remember this: you are collecting a network of people who you can bring together to solve a problem. It might not be your problem – and that’s okay,” Gail says. “Don’t approach people with a focus on gaining a reciprocal benefit: doing things thanklessly is okay. These communications and interactions have weight, and they matter. If you offer your best, things will always come full circle for you.”
Gail notes that there are countless ways to engage with your network and stand out. “Your Chamber of Commerce, industry-specific talks and educational events, and even LinkedIn forums – they all count. Research your space and your audience. Ask yourself, how do I best engage with this audience? Then show up: bring value, bring authenticity. Don’t waste time with an immediate pitch. Respect people, and be a good listener. Don’t do it because you want something, but because it’s the right thing to do.”
If Gail has one more essential tip, it’s to share what you have: knowledge, resources, information, connections, you name it. “Always ask, ‘How can I help? What can I do? How can I further your goals?’ Then do it!”
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The Recruiter’s Toolkit: Gail Eckert on Building Networks by Giving First
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