Networking Redefined: Part One

Do you ever get tired of hearing the word ‘networking’?

There is no question that networking continues to be the most important skill in today’s world, as long its definition is building reciprocal relationships.

Yet maybe it’s time to look at it in new ways.

We’ve all proselytized about the necessities of networking in order to make a successful career transition or earn career success. And for sure this is true. I do believe that networking is the way.

I wish we could come up with another word without some of the inherent negative implications. Any ideas?

I’d like to throw out a couple of simple thoughts about networking. Please share your comments so I can hear your take. By all means share new ideas too.

  • THERE ARE ALTERNATIVES TO “WORKING A ROOM”.

The phrase itself implies manipulation, it’s no wonder some people are turned off by it. You can indeed attend a conference and make it worthwhile without introducing yourself to every person in the room or being the outspoken conversationalist during lunch.

How?

Listen to what the speakers are saying and take notes on interesting points. The speakers will most likely have people waiting to talk with them afterwards and it might be hard to push your way in. Don’t beat yourself up even if you had hoped to introduce yourself.

Contact the speaker afterwards and say you heard them at the conference but didn’t get a chance to talk with them and you are wondering about something she/he said that intrigued you.

Do the same with people eating lunch at your table. Attendees will often get up to ask a question of keynote and other speakers. Savvy people will introduce themselves prior to asking their question. Take note of their name and company and what they ask.

Follow up with them a day or two after the conference. Mention something about their question and invite them to talk more about it over coffee. Better yet, suggest that you might be able to help (if that’s true).

  • YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PREPARED WITH THE PERFECT STATEMENT TO APPROACH A STRANGER.

Most of you probably know Keith Ferrazzi. I highly recommend his book “Never Eat Alone”. Keith brings up several insightful points that I rarely see mentioned in other networking books. Here are a few of his words of wisdom.

* There’s one guaranteed way to stand out in the professional world: Be yourself.

* Too many of us believe that ‘breaking the ice’ means coming up with a brilliant or witty remark. The best icebreaker is a few words from the heart.

The key here is to stop worrying about saying the ‘right’ thing, take a risk and allow a piece of your humanity to show. If you can make a connection in this way, it could be the beginning of a relationship.

This is one of many blogs to come with a different twist on networking.

How have you approached networking that might be of value to others?

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7 Responses

  1. Terry, Great post! I agree, true networking is about building relationships, connecting with people where there is a give-and-take rapport. Sometimes it leads to a new career and sometimes it leads to a great friendship or mentoring relationship.

    I also think Keith Ferrazzi is correct. Be yourself. Don’t try to know something you don’t know or be someone you’re not. Recipe for disaster. People appreciate sincerity and respect more than you know.

    I, myself, love helping people so I don’t mind when they ask for help or ask questions, but people must learn to help themselves as well. When I don’t see the effort to learn, or I feel the person doesn’t appreciate my time, effort and skills (feeling used), or when I sense their lack of integrity, I’m done with that relationship. Unfortunately, in that case, being yourself ends the networking relationship. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often.

    Networking is about helping each other, establishing a mutually respectful relationship, and being appreciative of each other’s talents and skills. It’s not a one-way street.

    • Hi Lisa – thanks so much for your interesting comments. I really appreciate you sharing your insightful ideas with everyone. I completely agree with the idea of being yourself. In the past when I have tried to be other than I am, it’s terribly uncomfortable. I also think it’s important for us to remember that most networking relationships don’t result in some ‘tangible outcome’ immediately. I think it’s wise for us to value the relationship for the relationship, and not have expectations of some miraculous outcome. Good things often arrive in mysterious ways!

  2. Just moved to the Chicago area and just graduated (as a “mature” student) with an MLIS.

    I have begun “information interviews” with various directors in the area. Basically I call and schedule a time to talk with them about resources in the area….etc..and let my personal side appear…who I am as a person ….I also bring homemade, oatmeal raisin cookies….which reflects my recent experience as a mother….they all seem to really like it. Yes, I have a human element to my professional approach…I can guide and instruct and throw a little yummy nurturing through food thrown in.

    • Hi Patricia, Thanks for your comment. I like your unique approach to networking by bringing home made cookies. Nice touch. I can see how that would break the ice and show a human side of you for sure. It shows that you are thoughtful and generous.

      This might not work in a corporate environment in some cases…although I’m sure anyone would love the cookies, they may interpret it in such a way where you are so thoughtful you might not have a thick enough skin to thrive in a very fast paced and competitive environment.

      Does anyone else have an opinion on this?

      • I would consider giving cookies in a container that had the appearance of being professionally packaged along with a thank you card after the fact, expressing a specific helpful hint or suggestion that the director provided.

        Although I know that Patricia has the best of intentions, I am personally not comfortable accepting food items from people I don’t know.

        But, I think the bottom line is that if this technique is working for a person, then they must be doing something right.

      • Hi Donna, Thanks for your honesty about the “cookie” situation. I think it’s very true that many people would be hesitant to eat cookies from someone they didn’t know (sad how skeptical we have all become). There’s always a balancing act when being thoughtful in a business context. I also agree with your last comment that if it’s working, keep going. The problem is that some people won’t tell you that they are afraid to eat the cookies – they will be gracious and say thank you. Thoughts?

  3. I just assumed people would know this is not a formal professional corporate environment approach. I know the difference.

    I call up local nonprofit orgs and request information interviews. It opens the door towards volunteerig and just letting them know I am in the market for a real job.

    If I was employed, and granted an informational interview to someone local, I would judge the individual and look at the extensive volunteer experience and stellar academic background and judge whether I feel comfortable eating the treats/cookies they brought.

    As far as being able to handle a fast paced, challenging competitive environment, isin’t this life? I could go on but will stop with the idea that if we don’t start with a tough skin in our job search, we begin to grow it the longer we remain unemployed and put ourselves out to be interviewed at lower and lower level jobs, hiding the skills that are our strengths…because their are so few good positions.

    Which brings back the idea of sincerity in networking. So get out the lotion and soften up the tough skin, you need to in order to build the relationships and open the door.

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