What is the point of Networking!?
OK – on the surface, this seems like one of those “duh” topics. Clearly, “networking” is something you do to get a job or more business. Right?
(Well, sort of wrong anyway)
In my opinion, here is the real reason you should be networking on a regular (and consistent, see my blog on that HERE) basis:
You don’t know what you don’t know.
Your head just exploded and you want to punch me in the throat, right? 🙂
OK, so take a deep breath or have a cocktail or something, and let me explain.
IF (big IF), you go into every networking event with a very open mind and the only expectation being that you are going to meet someone new and have an interesting discussion, I promise that you will very rarely be disappointed with an event. Yes, those might seem like pretty low expectations, but you also can’t expect to land a job or new customer every time you go to “network”. Networking is NOT 100% selling – it should be two-way to be of real value.
Here’s the gig, every time you have an honest conversation with someone and are genuinely (that is key) interested in what they do and why they do it, you are opening doors. The twist there is that you don’t know when that door is of value and if it’s even you that it would have any value to!
I have been to a good number of events over the years and sometimes I meet someone that can help me, sometimes I can help them, or sometimes they can help a friend of mine. And sometimes, none of the above are applicable, but now I “know a guy” (common phrase, don’t get all “PC” on me and complain).
I have met all sorts of people doing many things – some of the more “expected” professions (investment, realtor, accounting, IT), but also some less common jobs (actuary, livestock insurance, video production).
Yes, you will be sold to at times – that comes with the territory – just expect that. After all, you are there selling yourself as well right? So just deal with it – it’s not that bad. You aren’t there buying a car – just meeting people.
So, unless that person is a complete jerk (which does happen on occasion), whatever time you spent with that person was not time wasted. Maybe you didn’t get an interview or a new customer, but if it was a genuine (there’s that word again) discussion, then maybe you helped them, or your friend, or like I said, now you “know a guy”.
The other thing that happens is you end up having conversations that you would not typically have and those go down roads you would never have predicted. If you take the time after the event to process that a bit, you may find some interesting topics come to mind. Again, stuff you would never have thought about or considered had you not attended that event and had that conversation.
TIP #1: Here is a trick to a more interesting conversation: ask them a) how did they get into their profession and b) why do they do it? Those are not the stereotypical networking questions, and usually people will open up a bit, which also makes the conversation much more interesting.
TIP #2: A quote I heard/learned a while back that I think is spot on – “Be interested, not interesting.” The layman’s version of that might be “shutup and listen”. But basically it means to not dominate the conversation blabbing on about all of your allegedly great achievements. Show a genuine interest in the other person. Ask questions. Even if you don’t, at least pretend that you care.
What do I mean by “process” the event? When you get home, take a look at the cards you collected, recall the conversations you had, and think a bit about how they were or were not useful. What interesting topics came up? Did it cause you to question anything you are doing? What what their answer to your “why” question? Did it give you any ideas?
I am not suggesting that networking will cause you to solve world hunger or discover the meaning of life, but if you have that open mind and reasonable expectations I mentioned, I’m pretty sure some topics will pop into your head that otherwise would not have – and THAT is where ideas come from!
So back to my seemingly crazy comment above (“You don’t know what you don’t know”), maybe that makes a bit more sense and you are less likely to hate me. If you still hate me, that’s cool – maybe you can leverage a couple of these thoughts in your next networking event. And if you think this blog was a waste of your time and networking is still stupid, then good luck under the rock you are living. 🙂
If you network and have genuine conversations with people with reasonable expectations, take a little time post-event to process, I’m pretty sure you will be better off for the effort.
If not, blame it on me!