- Wise Words -
Networking as a Relationship
You’re scrolling through your inbox or one of your social media feeds and you notice an interesting ‘networking’ event occurring soon. The event sounds great, it features a really interesting speaker or panel, a happy hour, you may come across some familiar faces or could certainly meet other professionals with similar interests. Then something happens at the ‘11th hour’ - you make some excuse to not attend. Maybe something really urgent did cause a change of plans, but for a lot of us the thought of having to ‘turn on the charm’ and actively network is exhausting before we even get to the event.
Think relationships. Think long term.
The word makes some of us cringe while others see opportunity. We have images of slick people handing out business cards and being fake. This is networking done poorly.
All “networking” is, is a chance to meet new people, learn about new ideas, share your own ideas and more. Network in good times and bad and do it with a relationship minded perspective. Too many people only think of networking when they need something; a new job, a sales introduction or for a specific opportunity they want to pursue. Most of the contacts you reach out to will recognize this as a pretty transactional interaction, and they’ll decide on their own merit if it makes sense to engage and help.
On the other hand, if you do some of the little things to help others out (the “relationship perspective”), you’ll find you have built yourself a strong professional and personal network without trying to ‘network’.
The ‘happy hour mixer’ is what comes to mind when we think of networking. This activity really favors the extroverts. Networking in today’s world can be done both offline and online and I will give you some tips on how to do both.
1) Recruiter Relationship. When a headhunter or recruiter calls you for an opportunity, even if you are not interested in the role, spend 5 minutes talking to them about what they are looking for and refer any candidates that could be a fit. While secondary to helping the recruiter and other candidates connect, both are likely to be your advocates should you want their help in the future.
2) Be a mentor. If someone seeks you out for your advice and experience, be there for them. There should be nothing easier than sharing your own experience, so take the time and engage. The appreciation from those that you help will certainly make them an advocate of you, and the opportunity to return the favor in the future would be extremely likely. For more in Mentorship see here.
3) Social media. This one is easy for introverts and extroverts alike. Share and comment on your network’s LinkedIn posts, blogs, articles. etc. This engagement lets your contacts know you read and enjoyed their thoughts, and establishes a connection on certain subject matter that may have not previously been known. Additionally on LinkedIn, endorse your network’s skills – this acknowledgment on your behalf will be met with gratitude.
4) Make introductions. Again so easy in this day and age of always being connected online. Lots of people will offer help and their network to help, go a step further and make introductions. The latter is met with extreme gratitude. Just the other day I met with the CEO of a startup in Austin as I was looking for new career opportunities. Although my skills and background were not a fit for this company, he identified a couple of opportunities for me and sent off introductions on my behalf. A great gesture and one I’ll want to repay if given a chance.
5) Don’t forget your co-workers. While we may be tempted to take the relationships that we have with our coworkers for granted, that is a mistake. Instead think of building and maintaining relationships with your co-workers as “Strategy 1” in that these are people who you know best and as they grow in their careers and move companies will likely be in a position to help you. And you will also be placed to help them too. Networking is a two way relationship afterall!
In the same boat
One last thought on the formal networking events. Although I’m pretty extroverted, I find myself needing to have my A-game if I want to meet new people at networking events, and have often made that 11th hour excuse myself to not go. Remember that the other attendees in the room signed up with the same intention as you, meet new professionals, perhaps hear great content, share ideas, etc. And they are likely to have the same trepidations on talking to strangers, so introduce yourself and start building those relationships.
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