How the Gospel changes networking
Networking – it’s a part of every profession isn’t it? Whether it’s at the planned networking event or the Friday evening drinks, the swapping of business cards, explaining our services, trying to attract more clients or customers goes with the territory of business.
Christians believe that the Gospel changes everything. No aspect of our lives is to be untouched by the grace of God and so to be done for His glory (1 Cor. 10:31). So how does the Gospel change networking?
Matt Perman in his excellent book What’s Best Next writes that when most people think of networking “they think of the networking jerk – the guy who doesn’t care about other people, is just looking for what you can do for him, and is, frankly, boring”.  You perhaps know this guy. You perhaps are this guy! But immediately when we read a description of networking like this we get a hunch it doesn’t quite seem God-honouring.
What is wrong about this approach to networking? It’s selfish. It’s all about me and my gain. It’s not about what I can do for others, but what they can do for me. It’s about using not serving people. Building my business, my brand, my reputation.
An approach to networking then which is changed by the Gospel will not be selfish, but self-less. It’s not about what others can do for you, but what you can do for them. Keith Ferrazzi is not a Christian author, but in his book Never Eat Alone he proposes precisely this kind of networking. “I learned that real networking was about finding ways to make other people more successful. It was about working hard to give more than you get”. 
Ferrazzi is onto something here. Something that is very true and right. Something that is God-honouring and Biblical. The Christian life is to be one of serving others (Mark 10:45), doing good to others (Gal. 6:10), loving your neighbour (Mat. 22:39), putting their interests before your own (Phil 2:3-4) and so see them being blessed. And the world of business in general and networking in particular is no exception. It’s not as though at this point in our work-life we can take off our Christian identity and undertake networking in a way that is no different from those around us who aren’t seeking to glorify God.
So what would it look like to network in this way, in a distinctly Christian, God-honouring way? Here are three suggestions:
1. Ask questions and listen
Asking questions and listening is a key way of communicating (mostly without words!) that the person we are speaking with matters more than us. It demonstrates that how they think and feel, the issues that concern them, and the problems that they are trying to solve, matter to you more than what you have to say to them.
When it comes to networking then, rather than entering each conversation with the selfish agenda of communicating “here’s what I’ve got for you”, instead approach it with an attitude of “what are your needs, issues, concerns that I might be able to serve”. Ask questions to discover what this is for that person.
2. Explain how you can serve and bless them
Having discerned how you might be able to serve and love them, explain what you offer in terms of how it might be a blessing to them and enable their betterment and flourishing. Communicate what your product or service is in self-less terms; how you hope it might be for their good.
3. Don’t be forceful
One thing I can’t stand at networking events is when people insist that their service is necessary for me, even when I’ve expressed otherwise. When they don’t let up and don’t take no for an answer. Such an attitude does not communicate that they selflessly consider my interests better than their own. It communicates that they are only selfishly interested in using me.
So don’t be forceful if someone is not interested. And don’t twist what service you provide in order to make it sound like you desire to love and do good to them, when really all you’re doing is just trying to make another sale. That too is not God-honouring in networking, insisting on providing something that is not needed or unnecessary. And if someone else is meeting the service that you are offering don’t begrudge that, but rejoice that they are being loved and served. Because that’s the main thing isn’t it, that good is being done towards them, regardless of by who.
The Gospel changes our networking from being selfish to self-less, from being about what people can do for me, to what I can do for them, from being a time to sell, to a time to listen and serve. And in so doing something else happens – we commend the beauty of the Gospel and our heavenly Father (Matt 5:16). We make Him look attractive by networking in a way which is, quite frankly, far more attractive than the “networking-jerk”. Networking like this stands out, it’s distinct, and it demonstrates that the Gospel offers a better way to do business. Indeed, a better way to live. Because we follow the One who came not to be served, but to serve.
Image courtesy: smartlifeblog.com
 Matt Perman, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel transforms the way you get things done, 96.
 Keith Ferrazzi, Never eat alone, 9. Quoted in Perman, What’s Best Next, 96.