Over the last six months, I’ve slowly reduced my prolific networking activities to none. Why? It wasn’t feeling truly productive. I was leaving events exhausted instead of charged up. I was feeling jaded about networking altogether.
Recently, I returned to the very first networking group I joined after starting my own business. Why? I wanted to figure out why it was worthwhile back then, and how I’d gotten off track. The answer came to me after a combination of being reunited with my first network, some self-analysis, and re-reading a key chapter in one of my favourite books “How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere; The Secrets of Good Communication” by Larry King.
So, why was my NETWORKING NOT WORKING?
I was missing the key ingredient: the right attitude.
I was working towards adding ‘professional networker’ to my resume, and I’d forgotten my purpose, which determines my attitude. The purpose of any conversation is to connect and build a relationship.
Larry King writes that there are 4 basics of a successful conversation: honesty, the right attitude, interest in the other person, and openness about yourself. And that is what networking is at its core, a series of conversations. My conversations were exhausting because my attitude was wrong. I was looking for business first, relationships second.
When you’re participating in so many groups, all of which have a realtor, an accountant, an insurance adviser, an IT expert, a home renovation expert, a skin care representative, etc., you start to lose sight of the individuals and focus only on the business title and how that business might jive with yours.
Shame on me! Has it happened to you yet?
Returning to my first network after being absent for months brought this point home for me. I built RELATIONSHIPS in the beginning of my networking, relationships that are still there. People hire people who they feel connected to, who they trust and who are genuinely interested in them. My old crazy networking schedule turned me into a zombie, repeating my shtick over and over again, collecting business cards by the dozens, and feeling falsely productive.
The image lesson here? Be seen as a person first, a business-owner second. Approach any networking event as merely a series of conversations with the attitude of building relationships by connecting in whatever ways feel genuine and natural. The business will come (by direct hiring, referral, a tip or other valuable insight), but only AFTER you connect on a personal level.