When I hear the term ‘networking’ I want to run a mile, being naturally an introvert the language creates discomfort. I know that networking is a critical aspect of building my professional and personal network. But I still picture it as an awkward scenario whereby I am standing around making small talk.
What helps is when I frame networking as follows: a group of people with shared interests and passions, who are coming together to share their passions with each other. It is about building and investing in relationships. Networking is not about ‘who you know’ and how you can ‘score favours’. It is the art of establishing a circle of people around you that you add value to and they do the same for you.Networking is not about scoring favours, it is about how you can add value to those in your circle Click To Tweet
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How to Stop Networking and Build Relationships
When networking, it’s important to not come across as just ‘wanting’ something from the other person. However, it remains important to know who are the people in your space and to identify the ones you want to get to know. Remember that we all only have a certain amount of resources (e.g. time) and you want to spend it wisely.
Do Social Research
Conduct brief social research on the individuals you want to add to your network. Check out their LinkedIn, Twitter or any blogs they write. In this way, you may learn some relevant information about people. You will also get a glimpse into what their interests are.
Know how you add value to others. Go with the intent of understanding how you may help and add value to others, and then these individuals may help you in the future. If your intent is to ‘network’ to get favours and jobs, you need to change this. People can pick up if you are trying to use them, hence focus on the value you bring to the table.People can pick up if you are trying to use them, hence focus on the value you bring to the table Click To Tweet
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Treat All People Equal
It may be tempting to ‘overlook’ someone who you may deem as unimportant. However, each person is unique and has their own value. If someone engages with you, who is not the director of something, do not brush them off, engage. You will be surprised what you can learn by building relationships with a diverse group of people.
Be Interested to be Interesting
The more interested you are in others, the more interesting you will come across. As human beings, we love to be listened to and acknowledged. Connect with a person through showing genuine interest in them. Listen carefully when they speak so you can engage on where they are coming from and contribute meaningfully to what they are saying.
When I break it down like this, it does not seem overwhelming or awkward. So next time you set up a function (or invited to one), think of not calling it a networking event and calling it what it is. The purpose of such an event should be to connect like minded people to share ideas.
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