This article is inspired by a post I saw on the Screw the Nine to Five Facebook group. The idea that networking is so scary and disliked really got to me. I don’t like the idea of networking either. And, I started to wonder why that is.
I have such an aversion to attending networking events. It is probably because of an instance that comes to mind where I went to an event and the people at the event were just not my type. And, as much as I spoke to the people at the event, I couldn’t really connect with anyone there.
I keep thinking about that one event for some reason. However, there have been events where I have gotten so much out of the conversations with the people I met. Let me confess, I do feel great if I go to a networking event and the people there already know me. So, I find a way to rig the “networking” game in my favour. This doesn’t always work, but it does work a lot of the time.
These are a 4 things that I think you should think about before giving up on the whole networking idea.
Define what you mean by “Networking”
Truly speaking networking is a computer term. An information technology term for connecting a bunch of similar computers together so that they share resources. I know this, because I studied this stuff for 17 years.
Networking in the business sense of the word is a made up word. People used to talk about growing your network because it wasn’t what you knew but who you knew. And, that act of meeting new people and growing your network is now universally termed as networking. When in fact, all it means is you connecting to like-minded people and sharing resources. Sharing is the key word here, not taking their resources.
Most times, it doesn’t even matter if the people you are connecting with are like minded. The idea is that the people you connect with shouldn’t break any of your beliefs and values as a person.
Action Step: Spend some time to define what Networking is for you. And, if you come to the same or similar conclusion as I have, then read ahead, because I am going to tell you how best to rig the networking game in your favour. And, how to get the most out of connecting with the right people.
Why should you connect anyway?
There is no point pursuing the concept of networking or connecting if you don’t know why you are doing it. “The-Why” is crucial.
It is similar to doing your accounts as an entrepreneur and business owner. Not many people like doing their accounts and keeping track of their numbers, I included, but it has to be done. It has to be done because we know why.
Networking has to be done. It is by far probably the single most important thing that every business owner needs to make as part of their schedule. Not only does talking and connecting with new people allow you to see multiple perspectives, it allows you share resources. And sometimes the resources that others have are the ones that you don’t.
More connections gives you better opportunities. Because, the more people you know the more clients you get referred to you. The more people you know the more lives you get to touch and change.
Action Step: Make a list of all the reasons why you should connect with new people and reinvigorate your existing relationships.
Be aware of the obstacles
Awareness is like having a joker card up your sleeve. Just knowing what could come up when you get started is a massive help, especially in down times.
Rejection. This is the single most annoying feeling that stops us from meeting new people. But, there are ways around it. The noise between our ears is always deafening. Our mind makes up stuff and we think that it is true even though nothing has happened yet.
We imagine we might meet someone and the conversation will turn awkward. Or, we won’t know what to say. Worse of all, I used to think that I was a fraud, and I had no right to be in business, and that someone might call me out.
Sometimes, you do meet a total jackass, but those kinds of people are really very scarce, and I don’t think any one of us should live our lives based on the fear of running into that kind of person.
Action Step: Make a list of all the reasons that would stop you from going out and meeting new people. Make this list exhaustive. Remember awareness is your friend.
Rig the game
Networking doesn’t mean you need to go to an event. Whoever said that the only way to connect with people is to go to an event in person? Somehow when we think networking, that is the idea we conjure up in our minds. This is not true.
You can have a virtual conversation with people over Skype. The best way that I do this is to start a podcast. I get to have to chat with at least one person a week, for about an hour. The podcast allows me to invite people to my platform, which reduces the chances of rejection to the very minimum. As a host of a podcast platform, you are also seen as an expert straight off the bat.
Or connect with someone over a Facebook chat session. Or a Google hangout. There is no limit. Or, you can invite someone to have breakfast with you.
Also, being seen as a leader in your industry and being invited to a networking event as a speaker or panelist has helped my ego massively. There is no shortage of great conversations that you get to have, because instead of me starting the conversations, I get people starting them.
Now as a rule, I will only go to a new event that a friend has recommended to me or even better, is going to. I also believe that taking business cards to a networking event is a waste of time because everybody at the event is doing that. If you meet someone that you really connect with, then they will have a card or a phone number you can exchange. Be different.
Stand out. Embrace your individuality, and don’t ever lower your standards. You are unique and one of a kind. People would love to get to know you, as long as you take the time to get to know them. People don’t care how much you know, as long they know how much you care. Care about each and every one of the people you meet. Because, if you care enough, you will find every single conversation useful.
Action Step: Connect with 1 person right now and tell them about this exercise. Talk to them about your definition, your reasons and your obstacles.