In our social lives we ‘network’ constantly. Just look at what happens in the school playground – it is usually full of parents chatting and sharing stories whilst waiting to collect their children. When I wanted to find a saxophone teacher for my son I asked around in the playground and was recommended to speak to parents X, Y and Z whose children were already having lessons. Similarly, when we needed a painter and decorator we asked for recommendations from our friends.
At social gatherings we chat and make connections with people that we don’t know very well or haven’t met before. Connecting and building relationships are part of our everyday lives, yet we seem to associate ‘networking’ with business and something that we have to ‘work’ at. How many of us still get anxious before we go to networking events? Especially the ones where you might not know many people or anyone?
Shift your mindset
One way of turning this around is to shift your mindset. Rather than seeing ‘networking’ as ‘work’, think of it as ‘growing my relationships’, ‘increasing my influence’, ‘building my connections’….
When you think of networking as connecting and building relationships it takes the pressure off that superficial and somewhat inauthentic conversation of ‘what do you?,’ followed by the thought, ‘you are not someone who would buy my services’. This might then lead to a loss of interest and seeking out the next person to meet. (Be honest, have you had those thoughts?) Instead, the mindset is to start building a connection and getting to know the other person.
Acquaintance or ally?
Your purpose for attending a networking event may define how much time you spend getting to know people. By spreading the net far and wide allows me to broaden my contact database. Here I would meet people, connect with them but don’t build a relationship, though may go on to do so later. By contrast, there are some events that I attend to build deeper connections and relationships with a narrower band of people enabling me to strengthening my alliances with them.
By combining the two, you will have a wealth of people on whom you can call upon when the need arises. This also puts you up in a strong position to help people connect with each other. Being well-connected has its advantages as you become the ‘go to’ person to ask for help and this raises your influence and profile.
It also enables people to find you. People will contact you because you are well-connected and the more contacts, connections and relationships that you have, the better known you will become and this increases your opportunities.
How do you approach networking? Do you have a wide or narrow network of people who you associate with? Love to hear your perspective