They tell you it’s ultra important, nay, CRITICAL to network. They say that networking will change your business in ways you can’t imagine. They say that you can’t succeed without getting those connections. THEY say a lot of things but what they DON’T tell you can be even more imperative than anything else.
Before we get started, here’s my advice: RUN, don’t walk, to the next networking meeting! But before you do…
Know Why You’re Going
I’ve been to all kinds of “here’s how to network” sessions. In virtually all of them they have some sort of ice breaker to get you out of your shell and talk to the people around you. They focus on how to speak, and mention not to be too eager about what you want. While this is all good, it doesn’t address the most BASIC of what networking really is.
What IS Networking?
“Networking” has become the buzzword for getting to know people. You’ve been “networking” since kindergarten when you met your new best friend and built fortresses out of blocks together. We use networking events to get to know those in our field of business, in a lot of cases, just to get some eventual benefit out of it.
The Wrong Mindset
Here’s why I don’t like the current thinking of networking events – it’s all about the people I can meet and how I can benefit from knowing them. This tears apart the fabric of what it means to have a MEANINGFUL relationship with someone. Kicking back, having a great conversation, and getting to know them will return MUCH higher dividends than having someone who knows you as one of 100 people they met.
Know Who You Are
I don’t mean this in the context of business. I mean, know WHO you are. What sets you apart as a human being, not just your professional abilities and aspirations. You are freakin’ awesome, even if you’re not aware of it. Try to figure out what you like about yourself and use that strength. Be prepared to talk confidently about your professional abilities but don’t make this the only thing you talk about. On the flip side, seeking guidance from the right person and opening up about your insecurities can help catapult you to success.
Everyone is there to meet new people. Realize that this means walls have already been broken down just by walking in the room. By welcoming someone else into your conversation openly you will not only put their concerns and insecurities at ease, you may just end up becoming best friends.
Connect With THEM
Don’t go with the intention of getting anything but a new “best friend.” Approaching this as just a chance to have a good time with other people, in an atmosphere where others share your interests (assuming your profession is one of your interests) will make it all but impossible not to have you come out on top.
“Be INTERESTED, Not INTERESTING”
I don’t remember where I read this but it has changed my life. Maybe that’s overstating it, but it’s definitely helped my “people game”. Not talking about yourself lets you get out of your own way. Asking about the other person’s job, passions, even family life (when appropriate), will lead to an organic relationship built on more than any ‘verbal resume’ session could.
It’s Still Business
With all this being said, remember it is a business event. Dress well and behave like you would in an office setting (no dancing on tables with lampshades on your head – unless, maybe, that’s your thing…).
“The Children Are Our Future”
When were 5 we didn’t worry about what they other person might be thinking, we just saw the other kid, ran over and said “Hey, you want to be friends?!” Keep that attitude alive (though maybe don’t use that same tactic exactly) and you’ll be sure to have success.
Until next time!
Featured Image: Oh, that was me 😉