“The opposite of NET working is NOT working.” – A Very Smart Person
I once coached an executive in a company whose job was eliminated suddenly and without warning. After we worked on her surprise, anger, and fear of the circumstance, it was time to begin to focus on networking.
When I broached the subject her response was, “Pat, I have no other network than the people I work with.”
She had stopped networking outside of the organization and neglected to plan for the time that she might need to have a network to help her.
Recent statistics on Payscale estimate that upwards of 85 percent of open positions are filled through networking and 70 percent of people ended up in their current position thanks to networking.
I want to know who thought of the term network? First of all, why call this work? We all work plenty so why should our time spent outside of work be in any way called work?
Then I wondered about the term net, so I looked up the definition: an entrapping device or situation, a device for catching fish, bird, or insects. No wonder we don’t like networking. In addition to calling it working, now it feels like those fish getting caught up in the net as the net is being pulled through the water in trolling.
I hated networking as I used to think of it as hunting. Something that is like trolling others. Stalking. Uncomfortable.
Then I heard the quote that was about networking being more like farming where we plant a seed and grow and take care of it over time. This perspective changed networking for me and I began to look at it through the lens of building relationships instead of frantically meeting as many people as possible. I realized when I set my networking goal to collect as many cards as possible at an event, within a few days, honestly, practically overnight, I’ll only remember about two of the contacts, if I’m lucky.
I stopped using the term Networking. I call it ‘open exchange’. This reframing helps me look at it differently and anything sounds better to me than networking.
It helps me change my mindset and approach people in an entirely different manner. And people can feel the difference.
I also reversed my thinking around networking. Instead of taking the attitude of “What can I get from you?” I now approach this as social exchange and ask, “How can I serve you?”
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie
Here are my Top 10 reasons I value and learn from networking with some suggestions and tips on how to make it a more uplifting experience not only for you, but also for those around you who are in the same boat.
- It’s an opportunity to show up authentically. I find I connect on a deeper level when I am in conversation about other peoples’ personal lives. I make a game to find what I have in common with the other person. Once we have that nailed, we are more likely to like each other and more likely to remember each other.
- You can set yourself up to feel like a winner. If you set yourself up for success and you know what result you want before you get to the networking event you are in control of feeling like a winner. Sometimes all I do is set a goal to talk to three individuals in an entire night and then if I meet that goal, I sometimes reward myself by leaving. Mostly I am rewarded by at least three great conversations.
- Helps you find mentors. You might meet someone who has something you want to learn, or someone you admire and you want to learn more about him or her and how they got to where they are. Give them a truthful complement about your conversation; ask them if you can follow up with them; ask them how best to follow up; and ask them what timeframe would be best. Then be sure you follow through.
- Helps you prepare and practice different accomplishment statements. Practice a SOAR story instead of a 30 second elevator speech because we all love stories!
- SITUATION: Describe the context of the story
- OBSTACLES: Articulate the issues or describe the problem.
- ACTION: Explain the action you took to resolve the situation.
- RESULTS: Share the result of your actions. Share quantifiable as well as qualitative outcomes.
- Practice your active listening skills. Listening is the most fundamental and important component of interpersonal communication skills. People don’t just want to be listened to; they truly want to be heard. Active listening is a key leadership skill and active listeners earn trust and respect; understand issues and formulate better solutions; and can help you diffuse conflict.
- Practice open-ended questions. I have found if you just ask open ended questions to the people you meet at networking events, even if you never, ever, ever get to say a word about yourself, people will think you are a great conversationalist. So, let them do the talking. Just ask questions. Easy! The payoff is when you connect with them after the event, they remember you, realize they don’t know a thing about you because they talked about themselves the entire exchange, so they will then be more open to hearing about your offerings. My favorite question, “What’s keeping you busy these days?”
- Builds self-confidence: Nothing says self-confident like balancing a taco plate on a wine glass while shaking hands with your next possible job interviewer. Tip: Food first! When you enter the room, scope out where people are gathering and if there is food involved, go there first. People tend to congregate around the refreshments and be more accessible after they’re fed.
- Cut down on dining expenses: These expenses can be inversely proportional to the number of networking events attended given judicial planning.
- Develops your multi-tasking skills. Experienced networkers can focus on a partner’s conversation while listening intently to the conversation happening behind you that is oh, so much more interesting.
- Choose to look and be fabulous. Wear something fabulous that you’ve always wanted to try out in public but for whatever reasons you feel hesitant about wearing. Wear that statement necklace, your go-to power outfit, that bright red shirt or those purple and orange shoes sitting in your closet for years.
Because here’s the secret I always tell myself. I’m not going to see 99.9% of these people ever again. So, go for it. Put your heart and soul into participating in open exchanges and since we’re farming we might as well bet the farm on giving it all we’ve got.
Otherwise, why bother?