Few catchphrases are as memorable as the one that anchored the 90s Oldsmobile marketing campaign, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.” Things change so fast these days you can modify the phrase to most anything, like networking, in today’s world. Changing so fast, you might say, this isn’t your network anymore.
Networking is perhaps one of the bleakest and most misunderstood topics among adults of all ages and professions. And, it really shouldn’t be. With the exception of those few who truly are hermits (…and even then…), we all network almost all the time. Ever talk with your barber or hair stylist about what’s going on? Ever help a stranger on a street corner, looking for the nearest Starbucks? Or, help someone whose car is stranded on the side of the road? You’re networking in each of these cases.
Networking at its simplest, is interacting with others, both giving and receiving value. It’s about building relationships.
Networking seems to raise feelings of fear and dread in most folks. Why? Most likely, you envision a hundred people in a conference room and feel you must meet and introduce yourself to each and every person. You’ll find books, blogs, and articles written about how to ‘work the room.’ And, I heartily disagree with the approach.
Consider. You’re attending your son’s second grade concert. In the midst of 25 kids, there’s one that isn’t participating, just standing there. That one child is the most obvious in the whole group, standing out more than another child’s ‘major’ blunder. If you’re ‘working the room’, spending 2-3 minutes with each person, you’re as obvious to everyone else as that second grader. It’s easy to spot the person working the room, simply looking to shake a hand, smile, exchange cards, and move on. No in-depth relationships being made.
In contrast, you go to the same event. But instead of working to talk to every person possible, try focusing on 2, 4, maybe a couple more. At the end of the event, you’ll have had a smaller handful of discussions, but they’ll result in more meaningful relationships.
You may dispute my disdain at ‘working the room.’ But consider: Who is more likely to take your call, or return an email? One of the ’75’ you spoke to in a two-hour period? Or, one of the 5 or 6 you spent meaningful time with?
If you’re focus is on getting to know 1, 2, maybe 5 people–whom you get to select–out of a room full of people, is there a reason why networking should be feared?
Networking, what it is, what we think of it, is changing before our very eyes. In follow-on postings I’ll discuss my use of social media, social networking, and your contact databases.