Last week, Libby Kane wrote an article for BusinessInsider.com featuring an author who was quoted as saying that networking events are for the “desperate and uninformed”, which generated a great deal of reaction back and forth, as you can imagine. I am not going to dwell on who the author was, or any additional comments on the approach, but the conversation stream brought up some excellent points about how to get the most out of networking that are very crucial, and beg to be expanded upon. I’ll highlight the top three.
1) Networking should not solely be an event; it should be a mindset.
Applying the notion “There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t met yet” in interactions adopts a mindset of openness to making new connections. The quote, attributed to the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, is a reminder that most people in our lives, outside of family, were strangers before we forged connections that became friendships. Thinking this way can help drop the distance we put between ourselves and others and help us connect naturally to the guy we sit next to on the bus or the person who pours us coffee at our favorite café. We never know what meaning they, or WE, can have in each others’ lives…which brings us to the next point…
2) Networking should not be focused on WIIFM.
Most individuals who say networking doesn’t work feel this because they are approaching it with a focus on how THEY can benefit. They feel that everyone retreats the moment they enter a room…and it’s no wonder. No one relishes situations where strings are attached. We can all see right through someone who is seeking personal gain, even if sincerity is feigned.
Instead, those who focus on “What can I do for you”, and show a true interest in how to assist other people receive rewards of strong connections. Aside from the bonds it creates, walking into a room with an approach of “Who can I help?” strengthens confidence and attracts attention. Following through by lending our talents/connections/skills/knowledge to others leaves an impression that leads people to think of us again and again.
3) Networking should be strategic
This last point may sound like it contradicts the second, but it actually compliments it. There are some contacts that are more in alignment with our life focus. When we are deciding how to spend our time, applying a strategy makes sense. For instance, my business is to offer strategic staffing solutions to the MedTech, BioTech, Health and Pharma industries. If I am in a room of people and I hear one group discussing video game design and another discussing a new medical device, which group can I converse with better and share my connections and knowledge? That is not to say I wouldn’t be fascinated by video game design, but applying a focus to networking in any situation benefits both parties.
In short, floating from “event” to “event” without offering anything of ourselves while expecting rewards is an effort in futility, and CAN be desperate and uninformed. Applying the above three approaches can lead to better success for everyone involved.
Written by: Sheila Wyatt, Talencio Talent Services Associate.