Networking. I’ve never seen it working for me. It’s not something particularly practiced among people I hang out with in Ukraine, so I had no one to borrow habits from.
I read a few books, printed out a few hundred business cards and ‘Traditional’ understanding of networking didn’t work well for me: follow up rates on business cards which I tossed out were depressingly low (capped at 20 people on 300 cards).
Once upon a time, I was reflecting on time spent traditionally networking (read this as: speaking at conferences, exchanging business cards, volunteering, …). And I realized.
My greatest introductions actually happened by chance (I don’t think anybody was actually thinking of the N* word). But what was similar in all of the cases:
- we were having fun time together
- we’ve discovered common interests
- and identified things to learn from each other
Measuring stuff was the thing which derailed me a lot: it’s not the number of people in the network, which matters but the number of intersections in our goals we’ve discovered!
Why network if I’m not following up, not sharing the goals or even have no goals at all? I remember 3 intros by Alex which were well intended but led nowhere just because of this reason. People seemingly had common interests but invested time into another set of objectives.
Networking in the network
From time to time I’ve spotted people in my friend list on Facebook which I can’t say a thing about. Easiest thing would be to drop the strangers but why not benefit from the occasion?
So I’ve decided to sift through my contacts, get all the inactive ones and suggest us both to introduce ourselves. Which is kind of cool but makes delaying the thing easier: “My reunion list is still not ready, not all people are there”.
Another idea arrived to my head just recently: I saw a person in a chat and just approached them with the truth.
Ivan: Hey, do you remember where do we know each other from?
Hey, I remember you from … and I don’t know much about you. Let’s get reintroduced so that it will be easier to be useful to each other just in case.
I had a few chats like that now and I would like to improve on my success. What I’m going to do is inquiring people about their interests, goals and plans in case I don’t know these.
Although, that does not always work smoothly, some people will just appear as clearly out of my tribe :)
“Longterm goals are too intimate of a thing to share them” (c) someone from my friend list
“Why you’re so clandestine?” (asked by a person which ignored all of my questions altogether :) )
What to do then? No reasons to worry – I just tell it does not looks like a good fit right now and we can always get reintroduced later :)
Networking at the workplace
When was the last time you’ve asked your manager what his / her goals are? When you did that for your peers? (360 reviews / performance reviews or whatever your HR come up with does not count :P )
Doing this has a few clear advantages:
- I need less resources to break the ice as we have a lot in common
- I am interested in nurturing the relationship as this makes me enjoy my time at work
- Other person is interested as that way I’m less of a pain in the neck
Surprisingly, I was not even considering the work as a networking area until the very recent time. What about you?
Pick someone at random on your social network and figure out the answers for a few questions, here’s an example list, feel free to work out your own:
- How do they spent most of their time?
- How do they relax?
- What are the things they are investing their time / resources to grow in?
Next time you’ll see someone you don’t know a lot about, approach them and talk about that, trust me, that gets even more fun and useful with practice!