Everything You’ve Learned about Professional Networking May Be Wrong.
We need to radically transform the way we think about networking.
As the head of Professional Development at a new innovative college, I’ve seen hundreds of students uncomfortable with the idea of networking. They know the gains - learning, mentorship, business contacts, potential employment (some estimate networking results in 85% of hires) - and knowing so muddles their thinking.
The hope of gains mixes into a toxic concoction. The other ingredients: fear of “using people,” self consciousness of “asking for too much” and feeling “unworthy of help”. This concoction spoils authentic connect.
Approaching people at events begins to feel like a hollow transaction for even the most personable and selfless students. They see people’s titles and companies over their humanness and passions. Other professionals become a resource to forward your career. Even if we consciously think we are genuinely connecting, our subconscious is often driven by these ulterior motives.
That sounds like a big load of selfishness!!
I don’t want to meet that person at a networking event - I want to meet someone who is kind, considerate, wants to support and help other people … not for their own gain, but because they genuinely want to help.
BE THAT PERSON.
Forget the traditional and tired methods. Show up caring for others with no expectation of gain. Everyone wants to ask for something - why don’t you offer something. Everybody has needs. As so and so said, “If Bill Gates came in room and I looked him in the eye as he spoke and listened to him, I could offer him something. Yes Bill Gates has money, but you have something money can’t buy.” Everybody has something to give - even if it’s just undivided attention by someone who cares.
Show up with the intent to give instead of gain.
The intent to give opens you up. One of my students was told this advice before attending SXSW. He said it made him less nervous, he had more fun, and he built relationships that will last beyond the conference. What’s most shocking - he returned with 10 scheduled calls with recruiters and collaborators. Why? Because companies want to hire people who genuinely care about others!
You’ll hate networking and won’t be effective if you think about yourself the whole time. Focus on giving instead of gaining, and you’ll receive more than you ever imagined.
Here are three new rules of networking, thought up by my wonderful friend Bethany Hinton:
1. Find their brilliance
Everybody has something that lights them up. A passion. Hobby. Their work. Find that. You’ll learn about their world view and the other person will feel appreciated and valued.
2. Network for other people
Don’t network for yourself. Network for your friends and community. Be a hub for connecting new people you meet to old contacts. You can facilitate new hires, clients, customers, community members. You can pass along articles and resources. This mindset opens you up your intent to gain to give.
3. Be a Medium on a Mission
Are you working to benefit the world? If so, view networking as a way to allow other people to extend their impact through you. Great missions have a gravitational affect, people want to help those working to create good. Be that medium.
Finding people’s brilliance, networking for others, and being a medium on a mission breaks us out of our overthinking minds so we can network with heart.