Have you ever gone to a networking meeting, a business luncheon, or a professional “get together”, only to leave feeling like you’ve wasted a couple hours of your life, and that you have no new meaningful relationships?
I used to get frustrated going to networking-type engagements because they all seemed to end up this way for me. I’d wonder what the purpose of these events were and whether they actually worked for people to build business or relationships? I made a realization however that changed the way that I approached meetings like these, and in time, completely changed (for the better) my abilities and results in networking.
When I’d leave these meetings, feeling frustrated or annoyed, there was a clear problem – and the problem was with me. I was acting exactly “like the people who were annoying me.” I was utilizing a “what’s in it for me?” approach to networking. When I realized this it became very clear why networking events were often fruitless in terms of establishing new relationships.
If your networking style is “what’s in it for me?”, there is a good chance that at least a couple of the following could describe your current style:
- You want to “build your network” because of what it can do to advance your career and your goals;
- You get frustrated, and lose interest, when your new “contact” only wants to talk about themselves and what they’re doing;
- You usually leave a networking event without many meaningful contacts or relationships to develop;
- You don’t find people very memorable, or that interesting; and
- You think that networking events are often a waste of time.
Here is the problem – when you are using a “what’s in it for me?” networking style, not only are your attempts to network generally ineffective but (and this was the part that hurt the most for me), in many cases, you are perceived by others the exact same way that you are perceiving them: disinterested, not very memorable, not very interesting, not someone to develop a long-term relationship with.
My networking world (and results) dramatically changed when I changed my focus – away from a “what’s in it for me?” to a “what’s interesting about you?” approach. When I adopted the latter not only did I start to develop more meaningful relationships (which eventually paid dividends in my career and goals) but I actually started to enjoy going to networking events, and I was perceived as a genuinely interesting guy.
The truth about networking is that – if it is done correctly – it is just about building a large base of strong and positive relationships, and relationship building, at it’s heart, is about focusing on someone else more than yourself. Everything changed when I made this realization. Keith Ferrazi, in his great book, Never Eat Alone said it best, “The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.”
So if your networking attempts are yielding little fruit the best place to start is in the mirror, like I did, and ask yourself if you are pursuing the “what’s in it for me?” strategy, and if you are, then change it to a “what’s interesting about you?” strategy. After that – everything will change.
Try these helpful tips in the process (they continually work for me):
- Use this new paradigm for every relationship you encounter: “The purpose of this relationship is the relationship itself, not the potential results of where it may lead”
- Look to build a positive relationship with someone, even if you can’t see an immediate benefit to your goals or personal agenda (you never know who that person might be connected to, or who they might refer you to)
- Start with the connections that you already have – find out “what’s interesting about them?”
- Learn how to remember names – start improving your skills today, and use a new person’s name in your conversation
- Meditate: this will go a long way in helping you to “be present to the moment” when you are in a new conversation
- Go out of your way to endorse or recommend others on LinkedIn. Be a “positive giver” instead of someone who is only looking to receive (you’ll be amazed at how much you get back).