Networking - A Different Point of View
Whether you are in business for yourself or you work for someone else, chances are you can’t move forward in your job without networking. But if you are like most people, you hate it. And why wouldn’t you. Go back and read the first sentence again - “Whether you are in business for yourself or you work for someone else, chances are you can’t move forward in your job without networking.” Doesn’t that just say it all? The very purpose of networking is to meet other people so you can advance. In other words, the purpose of networking is to use the people you meet. That’s just gross.
But, does it have to be? What if we thought of it differently? What if we took it a step further and stopped thinking of the next networking event as an opportunity to sell someone something. And instead treated it as an opportunity to make meet new people.
Four Ways To Change Your Networking Point of View
Take the self out of it - Before you go into your next networking event, consider changing your goal. Dr. Michael Misner, author of Networking Like a Pro, promotes the concept of “givers gain.” In fact, he’s built an entire business around it with BNI chapters all over the world using the idea as their motto. What if you take the idea that “the more you give, the more you get,” to the to extreme. Go into your next networking event with the thought in mind that you won’t try to sell anybody anything. You won’t try to schedule an appointment, you won’t even give someone your business card, unless you have something to give them. Maybe it is a piece of knowledge that can help them in their business, maybe it’s an appointment with you for the opportunity of them selling you something. Whatever the case, take the self out of it and make your next networking event about giving, not receiving.
Be prepared to make connections - Changing your goal from advancing your own career to helping someone else advance theirs is a great way to change your point of view. Sure, go in with the idea that you will meet a lot of people. But go in with the idea that you will start introducing the people you meet later in the meeting to people you met earlier in the meeting. Listen to what they tell you so you can understand what a good introduction would mean. If you meet a realtor early in the evening and a mortgage broker later in the evening, an introduction could be helpful. If you meet a runner early in the meeting and a chiropractor later in the evening you may have a match made in heaven. Being the connection is another way of looking at the event with a givers gain attitude but it feels a lot less like using the people you meet and a lot more like helping someone else.
Practicing new skills - Have you noticed bad habits you would like to change? Do you get distracted when someone is talking because you are trying to come up with something interesting you would like to counter with? Do you forget someone’s name the minute they tell you? Do you find yourself not making eye contact? Networking events are a great opportunity to practice changing these habits. Challenge yourself. At the next networking event challenge yourself to listen without talking, to repeat back names and find a way to remember them, or to make eye contact. Use the networking event as a way to improve your social skills. This will not only give you a different focus for the event, but help you improve for future events.
Make friends - Okay, we know it’s a cheesy idea. But seriously, the old saying goes, “It’s who you know.” But why is that the case? When you think about it, it makes sense. You are much more likely to refer a friend than a stranger. You are much more likely to suggest a friend to a neighbor than you are to some guy you just met at a networking event. Making friends takes time. If you know that going into your next networking event, the pressure is off, that you don’t have to sell anybody you don’t have to get a phone number and add it to your CRM, you just have to show up, have a conversation and hope you meet this same person again at another networking event, if you go into the event without the idea of using someone else to move forward, there is no pressure. You can make friends, enjoy your evening and even look forward to the next event where you will get to see your new friends.
Networking is not easy. Truthfully very few people are happy when they see a networking event on their calendar. But it doesn’t have to be that way. How can you change your point of view to make networking better?