This is one post which will never be entitled, “How to Network Like a Boss”
Are you one of those people who enjoys the idea of networking? I don’t know a lot who do except for a couple of friends in sales. For them, mingling and convincing strangers is something that can result in fast rewards and so the incentive is high. It’s genuinely what they like to do.
For me, networking has always seemed a bit like a “should” rather than “Yep! I’m in!” because I’d always looked at it from the position of a fixed and unchanging idea of myself, one I needed to properly package in order to engage the “right” people.
Thankfully, the idea of a fixed sense of self has proven to be false. In reality, there’s room to move and to play, and to meet the person I’m talking to from a fluid place. Understanding that the idea of who I am has an aspect that is completely malleable has allowed me to more naturally and genuinely engage. To accomplish this “natural art of networking with ease”, I’ve found that the exchanges should be undertaken with nothing less than my putting one hundred percent of my effort into these two approaches.
Ask, What can I do to help the person I’m engaging?
Though I may have a need for their assistance, my first priority should be to add value to the exchange and the simplest way to do that is to repeatedly look for opportunities to help them accomplish their goals. Not mine.
Those I want to help most are the people who are already in or connected to the roles I’d like to someday have. To genuinely engage their interest, I need to take the completely selfless route not by asking for them to give first but instead finding opportunities to offer my assistance. Because during our conversation, my position will naturally become obvious and more than likely, they will want to reciprocate by seeing my need and being moved toward meeting it. A good number of people I help will do this and even if they don’t, in assisting them, I’ll likely learn something valuable toward meeting my own goal. Thinking that I “lose” if I don’t get something back is short-sighted. If I’m paying attention, there’s no way to lose.
Engaging with nothing less than authenticity.
Once I offer assistance, I’d better follow through. When I think about issues I used to have with the process of networking, one of the most bothersome was with those who over promise and fail to live up to them. This kind of exchange is rampant and accepted as “part of the game”, but it doesn’t mean that I have to play by anyone else’s rules other than my own. And in order to enjoy the process, I have to be able to believe that I’ve made an honest effort to remain genuine and not be swayed or drawn in to an egocentric game of networking ping pong. This isn’t as easy as it sounds because we tend to mirror another’s behavior, especially when meeting someone new. It takes conscious effort to stay real, but it’s something my future self will thank me for.
These ideas aren’t new, but until I clearly saw the wisdom for myself, they remained a nice theory.