When your colleague asks you about networking, what do you think?
… I’d rather go grocery shopping.
… I’d rather sit in a boring, non-interactive two-hour meeting.
… I’d rather have other plans.
Early in my career, I often heard the term “networking” and thought it sounds important to do; however, no one ever defined it for me. After achieving degrees in business from both undergraduate and graduate schools, there were no courses on the subject matter. Isn’t that how people learn? There’s a course on it, right?
I grew up being told, “head down blinders on…do a great job…you’ll gain great rewards”. No one told me that networking was part of the unwritten responsibilities in the job description. Therefore, I learned about networking by:
- Witnessing promotions for those who didn’t necessarily seem to be most “ready now.”
- Watching colleagues be selected for leadership programs over others who seem better prepared for the opportunity.
- Looking through the eyes of a mentor who told me, “you want your name mentioned in the room when you are not in the room.”
Networking Defined – What it Is
- It is authentically connecting – in a genuine way with another person, not in a superficial way. Meaning, you contribute to others without seeking anything in return. You offer assistance, share knowledge, and or make valuable introductions. In other words, you develop a relationship with the person.
- It is developing a two-way relationship – where each person derives benefit from it. Meaning when I’m building a relationship, I cannot be on the “Gisele” (insert your name here) channel talking about myself all the time or continuously looking to get something out of the relationship without depositing anything into the relationship. The author, Keith Ferrazzi, of the New York Times bestselling books, Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back put it this way “The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.”
Networking Defined: What it is Not
- Collecting business cards that you never use andthat eventually collect dust. This is not a winning strategy. Why? No one wins. According to creditdonkey.com, of the 10 billion business cards printed each week, 8 billion will be tossed within a week. That’s 88% of the cards printed. For those that are kept, the receiver is more likely not to use it than to use it. Is this you?
- Talking to as many people as you can at a traditional cocktail party. Chatty Kathy or Gregarious Greg. Is this you? Or if it’s not you, is it your neighbor? Talking to people without intention for short periods usually nets nothing for either party as a result of the party.
- Asking someone you don’t know, from a can of paint, to do a favor. This would include finding your next job opportunity, getting your daughter into the best Pre-K school in your geography, or making an introduction to your favorite musical entertainer. When I asked attendees of my recent “Networking Made Easy” speaking engagement at the National Sales Network – Baltimore/Washington DC chapter, how may attendees would do such a favor for someone they didn’t know…no one raised their hand. Therefore, please don’t do it.
What networking is and surely what it is not is no longer a mystery. Keep it authentic. Keep it two-way. When you do the work, you will reap the rewards.