Despite the fact that it is critically important for business development, networking gets a really bad rap. Open up any business magazine, or browse social media, and you’ll find a host of articles with titles like Networking for Introverts, Tips for People Who Hate Networking, or Why You Hate Networking. It has basically become a universal truth that people hate networking, but have to do it anyway.
Admit it – you feel the same way. It can feel awkward to walk into a cold room, and just walk up to people and ask what they do. It feels inauthentic, “cheesey” and kind of rude, despite the fact that everyone is there for the same reason – they know they need to network, but don’t quite know how else to do it.
Google apparently hates networking, too.
The problem isn’t networking – it is how we think about networking.
We particularly liked the advice about figuring out how to help the people you are reaching out to. We encourage our team to make at least one connection or introduction for a professional contact each week that might help them expand their business. In this way, we get a reputation for referring business, forging connections, and building true relationships with our professional contacts.
A member of our team recently met a professional college counselor at an event. The following week, she introduced her to a financial advisor we know that helps families to plan for a number of things, including paying for college. Perhaps they can establish a referral relationship. Maybe they can speak together at events, or do some joint marketing. Or maybe they can just meet for coffee, learn more about what each other does, and offer their clients better info after having gained some more perspective on another aspect of their industry. In any case, they’ll remember who thought about them and their business.
Connect With Those That Share Your Passions
Along the same lines, look for opportunities outside formal networking events.
Does your kid play Little League? Volunteer to organize a fundraiser or help out in some other way. You’ll meet people in your community who have similar interests and family lives – and get to show off your skills in a natural way.
Find an organization that means something to you – a religious group or charity focused on specific area of interest. Join their board, volunteer for a committee or end your expertise in some way. You’ll meet people you might not have met otherwise, and also feel good about contributing to a cause.
Connect Different Groups
Our team members do attend traditional networking events and join networking groups. In fact, we’ve recently taken the lead on organizing a monthly networking social that brings together three of these groups for an evening of light appetizers and social interactions. These have proved extremely popular, because they extend everyone’s network in an organic, and casual way. And, its resulted in some great new business opportunities for our firm, because people have seen our organizing, marketing, and business capabilities, as we’ve put together these events.
By changing your mindset, you can make networking far less intimidating – and awkward. Think about building two-way relationships and showcasing your talents in a way that benefits your professional network. Networking doesn’t have to suck – if you change your mindset, you just might find you like it!