It is hard these days to turn on the television, listen to the radio or pick-up a newspaper without hearing bad news about the economy. Unemployment rising, housing prices falling and consumer spending at a stand still; it is enough to make you want to throw up your hands and say forget it! But fortunately, for many of us,  that is not an option.

So how do you survive tough times? You learn from the masters, those business owners that make surviving tough times look easy. There always out there. Those  that found jobs in the middle of the great depression, those leaders that managed growth despite the stagflation of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, and those business owners and professionals who somehow make success look easy in our current shifting economy.

While these times in our history may have been different, the secret to success during times like this remains the same. People who thrive in tough economic times understand that while the rest of the world is busy focusing on how to earn money, how to pay the bills, thrivers know the real gold lies in  building relationships. They know networking is not enough, and they put their time and their energy into truly connecting with people. As the saying goes the stronger your network the stronger your net-worth. I also believe the stronger your network, the stronger your self-worth.

To network means to support and to connect means to bond and unite. Understand that difference, and you take a powerful first step into learning how to thrive in any economy. Networking is about knowing a lot of people, but when we connect we understand how to build the types of relationships that ensure we and those around us reach our maximum potential.

So how do you move from networking to connecting?

Just follow these three simple steps:

1. Serve Others – Learn to give without any expectation of return. Be genuinely interested in helping others get whatever it is they what. Serve others before you serve yourself. This is not easy, especially in tough economic times. It takes courage, the courage to first put yourself last. It takes patience, the patience to believe that the fastest way to get what you want is to help others get what they want.

2. Add Value – Value is about knowing how to make people feel special and important. One of the key ways to add value is to listen. So few people really listen these days but when we listen we convey to others that we care. Simply by listening, we can learn about their challenges, their problems and their priorities, and we add value by helping them solve those problems or create new opportunities. Simply by hearing others problems and helping them solve their problems we built trust and credibility. Once trust and credibility are built we are ready for step three.

3. Show Vulnerability – When you have first learned to serve others, when you have invested in helping them achieve their goals, people are more than willing to help you. In order to let others help us, we need to show our vulnerability. Step three is the most difficult I believe for many of us to implement, but if we truly want to connect we must be vulnerable. We must learn to first acknowledge that we need help, and we must believe that those around us have the answers and the keys to many of the problems and challenges we have. Then we must ask for help. We need to make it clear to others what we need and how they can help us. Lastly, we need to be appreciative. To truly connect you must be openly grateful to those who have helped you, and acknowledge the work they have done and the support that they have given.

When you follow these three steps – in this order – to first serve, then add value, and lastly show vulnerability, you’ll  move past knowing others to a whole new level of relationship. One in which we are vested in the success of those around us, and one in which they are vested in our success. You’ll go from being well networked to being well connected. Again, in tough economic times Networking Is Not Enough – You Need To Connect!