I told you I'd be learning about 'How to Network Without Being a Dick' from Mark Hollander in my 100-Day Plan, and I've come down from the mountain to tell you about it.
Okay, storytime- let's start with a definition: The 'dick networker' is the master of the shoddy bridge: you can just picture him/her with a martini in one hand, making airy movements with the other, all while sporting a sunshine grin from one of the far moons of Stepford. He/she does not build, deep lasting connections (now I sound like eHarmony), but instead builds fake/glossy introductions, card-passes, spins, and then its serving number 83!
According to Mark, you don't want to be this guy/gal: I agree. But how do you disagree in reality, not just principle? Let's face it, we're presented with a lot of social scenarios (ecosystems) where the situation is slanted toward networking in dick mode.
The trick is to be different, be maverick. Look for that person in the room whose eyes convey substantiality and depth. And then say 'hi', be genuine and LISTEN to what the person has to say. Take an actual interest in people: they really are better than your Blackberry, and they can intuitively sense when you are engaged in the content they are setting out for you. Go a step further and don't answer an incoming call while engaged with the person: that's so rare anymore they'll probably do a podcast about what a cool cat you are just for that gesture alone.
The phenomenal thing about building genuine, quality relationships with people is the strength of the bridges you layout. When I was talking with Mark about the fake networker, the previously mentioned example in my mind that seemed to resonate with Mark is the dick networker builds tons of shaky, poorly structured bridges to others. They seem and look popular, but the bridges are not stable and/or load-bearing.
Just think about the kind of life and business you can build on six sound bridges, vs 30 shaky bridges. And going further, think about the business you can roll across sound footing - some heavy-duty transactions! On the other hand, think about what could make it acrosss 30 crummy bridges: maybe a few light infantry, but definitely not the heavy cavalry.
There is one drawback to networking in a dick-free fashion, however. The Stepford networker's bridges are brittle but quick to put up. On the other hand, bridges of structural integrity require time and effort to create and maintain. So you can't just be out for instant results, you've got to have a long-term, Win/Win focus. But then it's a lifestyle, not a diet :).