There are few people these days who don’t need to do a little networking now and again. Meetup is a huge success, not because people want a hiking partner, but because they are looking for some human connection that gives them perspective, encouragement, or a new outlook on an old problem.
The fear of networking
As a business person, and when I was employed by an organization, my fear of networking was about having to ask someone for something; a referral, a lead, a contract, or even a job.
Networking is a bit like sales in that regard. The image that comes to mind is always the pushy salesman, or the networker who walks away with 50 business cards and doesn’t know what to do with them.
Does it have to be that way? I don’t think so. I network with business people and with writers. I find the best ideas for books or new ways of running my own consulting firm, just by talking.
The need to network
As a species, we are generally social. I know some of us would rather work alone – writers are a great example.
A group of writers (anthology of writers?) sitting in a room together writing, are really sitting alone in that group. Focus on the work is so tight, you hardly hear the keyboard clicks of the other authors. When the writing break comes, we talk. We talk about our hobbies, we talk about TV, and the latest scandal in the publishing world – I know you are so jealous of our high powered life – but most of all, we talk about our writing. How do we get better at our craft? Who has found a way around a stumbling block. Who has advice?
Business networking can be a structured passing of cards and practicing your pitch, or it can be a babble of discussion around current economic events, changes in the market, successes of colleagues… pretty much anything. Making the connection is far more important than getting a business card.
Tips for networking
- Make it about you helping people – don’t be shy about what you do, or what you need, just frame it in a ‘how can I help you’ approach. You might feel more comfortable and less like you are begging for help.
- Make it as much about the other person’s needs as it is about yours
- Find the right group – don’t push yourself into a referral mill type of networking if you really are more comfortable in the social style connections.
- Push yourself to try. Even if you just stand there in the corner you will get something out of a networking group. And at social style networking groups, someone will always come over and strike up a conversation.
Networking is about human contact. By connecting with other people, you stimulate something inside yourself. Perhaps that will be a creative spark, or just a higher sense of confidence. Have fun!