(4 minute read)
What comes to mind when you think of networking?
If you’re like most people, you probably think of things like…
You might start to feel a sense of dread, anxiety, or as one person I know put it, “jabbing a fork in your eye.”
While some people hear the word “networking” and think of things like connecting, making new friends, or free beer, these people are in the minority (and this article is not for them!).
Have you ever heard that 80% of job postings are not posted publicly, and that the best way to land a new job is by networking?
Does reading that make you feel a little sick?
If you’re an introvert (like me), networking just might be your worst nightmare.
But fear not my friend, because attending events full of schmoozing, disingenuous small talk, and having business cards thrown at you by multi-level marketers, is totally negotiable for career success.
You don’t need to attend events you don’t like with people you don’t enjoy, to network.
Shocking, I know.
In fact, there’s another way to network that's far more effective, and makes it a lot easier to build authentic relationships.
More and more people are ditching their meetup.com account, and opting for what I like to call the “new networking” instead.
What’s the “new” way to network, you ask?
Building genuine relationships through one-on-one conversations.
The purpose of these one-on-one’s is to build relationships, not to ask for a job. These meetings are an opportunity to get to know more about the other person, their job, how they got their job, their industry, etc.
The good news is, on top of feeling better on a human level, this form of networking is more likely to lead to work opportunities as well.
Imagine that you work at a company that’s hiring. Who are you more likely to refer for the position (assuming both are qualified): the one person you met at a large networking event for 2 minutes, or the person you’ve had 3 or 4 coffee dates with?
Now I know you might be thinking, sounds great, but don’t I have to do some schmoozing at networking events to get those coffee dates in the first place?
Well, you could.
And if you do, I recommend being really picky about the events you choose to go to (i.e., picking events specific to the industry you’re working in or looking to get hired in, rather than general networking or meetup groups).
But if that’s not your jam—I'm talking to the introverts in the house—then online networking might be your choice for making first contact.
How do you network with people online?
The goal of networking online is to eventually talk with people on the phone, or ideally, meet in person. Don’t expect to build great relationships through email or messaging.
That being said, connecting with people online is a great way to make that initial contact with someone new.
Here are some suggestions for doing that:
Next step is to make sure you are building those relationships in a way that feels genuine and authentic.
How do you keep your networking feeling authentic?
A schmoozer is constantly thinking about what’s in it for them.
An authentic networker is listening, asking questions, getting curious, and offering help where they can.
A schmoozer approaches networking as a way to get a job.
An authentic networker approaches networking as a way to find something that's a good fit—for both parties involved.
The biggest thing I believe you can do to naturally foster this authentic approach to networking, is to have a job.
Yes, sometimes you need to get a job so you can eventually get the right job.
If you’re desperate for a job, or for business, it makes it hard to network authentically. If you want to build genuine relationships, having a job that is at least covering your bills while you look for your ideal job, is preferable.
I’ll never forget a time when I was feeling desperate for clients in my business, and had a potential ideal client on the phone. She wasn’t committing to sign up for my program, and I wasn’t letting it go. She eventually told me that she was feeling pressured by me, and I felt HORRIBLE.
I got this sick feeling in my stomach, and immediately ended the call. It was a good wake-up call that I needed another source of income to supplement my business. Coming from a place of non-desperation, I feel I can better serve my clients (and potential clients) authentically and from a place of service—without my own hidden agenda.
Long story short, get a job if you don’t have one—any job. (And if you’re an able-bodied, healthy person who’s willing to put some grunt work in to get to where you want to be, you can get a job.)
There are opportunities to meet people everywhere we go, and all people no matter the context should be treated like people (and not just as something to get what we want from).
If you’re feeling icky or gross about an interaction, that’s a sign you’re probably moving into schmoozing territory.
However, when the line between networking and building friendships starts to feel blurred, that’s a sign you’re on the right track!