People, including experts, make networking so tough, and such a formalized process. We write entire books on how to network. It’s really quite simple – have a conversation, and remember that networking isn’t about you in a job search or a business interaction; it’s about you talking with another human being. Just talking, we can do that, right?
We have so many opportunities to network in our daily lives. Parties, weddings, funerals (not during the ceremonies mind you), church or other religious institution gatherings, and of course, networking events. We should start promoting networking as a state of mind, not a process or methodology, or something only done on special occasions.
I recently had a business person in my Your Business Plan: The Entrepreneurs Compass six-week program say the following “I attend networking events all the time and I can’t seem to get any leads. I go there with the intent of getting business and just never get any decent contacts.” My answer: Stop going with the intent of getting a client, and start going with the intent of helping someone else. I would tell a jobseeker the same thing. Stop going to a networking event and trying to “get” something out of it, and start giving to others. My course attendee was needless to say stunned at my comment and then the lightbulb went off. She realized the entire strategy of going to an event to “acquire” a contact or new business was too much pressure on her and the other networker. I explained that when our focus is on what we want, we communicate it in body language, our voice, and very likely the verbiage we use. All we are saying to a potential contact is we want, want, want. Not the most attractive communication approach.
When you take your eye off of yourself in a networking situation, and offer a fellow networker a tip, pointer, referral, potential contact, job or business lead, or just give someone a little guidance, that kindness will always come back to you in a positive way. I’m not talking about getting the crystals out and singing “Kum-Ba-Yah” here, but when you give you truly receive. Not only do you receive the knowledge that you helped someone else, that help to another always seems to return to you as help when you need it. Remember the “practice random acts of kindness” idea – it works!
The other two tips I offered to the business person in my seminar were more for people who tend to be on the shy side. First, take someone with you to an event, and even better, someone who is outgoing and let them do some of the work. Trust me, those of us who aren’t shy will be glad to help, and you may be assisting another jobseeker or business owner network too. Second, if you are alone, don’t feel as if you must go make a formal introduction to anyone initially. Instead walk up close to a person on the outskirts of the event that like you is probably shy, and say the following: Wow, there are more people here than I expected, or… there are fewer people here than I expected. If they talk back to you in a friendly way, CONGRATULATIONS, YOU ARE NETWORKING. Now introduce yourself and start a real conversation.
This isn’t rocket science, we don’t need more books on networking, but instead we need to as career and/or business coaches to show our clients how simple and empowering it can be once they step slightly outside their comfort zone. In particular, we must emphasize this is an ongoing process with people you know, people you need to reconnect with, and people you have yet to meet, and can happen in most any social situation. Putting people first makes you a better person, and I have found once my clients get a taste of that success in building relationships they want to continue the pursuit. Who knows where that can lead?
Karen Silins is a multi-certified, award winning resume writer, career, business and personal branding coach working with individuals and small businesses. After graduating with degrees in education and vocal performance, she made her own career transition into the Human Resources realm. Karen left Human Resources to become an entrepreneur and help jobseekers and fellow entrepreneurs achieve their goals. She keeps current regarding trends in the resume writing, coaching, HR, small business and marketing industries by working daily with individual clients on resume development and career coaching, consulting for small businesses in business plan development, marketing, blogging, hiring and overall HR processes, and providing 50-70+ seminars and workshops annually to a variety of organizations in the greater Kansas City area. She can be reached via her website at www.careerandresume.com.