It’s an activity associated with relentless socializing, schmoozing, sales-like superficiality. It’s something that is too often approached as a “has to be done” in a time of need (new job, new sales leads) or similar activity, rather than as the life skill it really is.
Think about this for a minute: name a popular security prompt question for retrieving a lost password. “Who was your favorite teacher?” likely comes to mind. And why is that? Simple. We remember how people made us feel. And how we make others feel is really at the core of networking.
So, to make networking suck a little less, 8 things to remember:
- Networking can be a scary activity. By definition it involves interacting with other people and let’s just admit it: people are complicated, messy, unpredictable creatures.
- We are human – even when we’re hiding behind an avatar or carefully-edited social profile. Networking online would definitely suck less if we behaved more like humans and less like wannabe influencers.
- Stop Googling your network and cultivate curiosity. By this I mean, end the very bad habit of asking for answers before you’ve even bothered searching for an answer or solution yourself.
- Tap into your inner 3-year old. No, don’t through a tantrum the next time you are dragged off to an event against your will but, do ask questions as to why/who/what the event is about before you hand over your precious evening to talk to strangers.
- Skip sweating the small talk. If I had a dollar for every time I’m asked for a “good ice-breaker” question, I wouldn’t be hustling for my next gig every week. Lord! Use your ears. The best networking tool you have is your ears, not your mouth.
- While we’re at it…eliminate the elevator pitch. No one wants to be talked at, especially when 99.9% of the time those well rehearsed pitches make no god damn sense. Director Spike Lee asked for a convincing 6-word pitch before taking on his last film (“Black Man Infiltrates Klu Klux Klan”). If you must carry a security blanket for intros, make it a few words that invite “tell me more” conversation.
- Stop inviting people for coffee. If you’re seeking an answer, ask it and let the other person decide the delivery method. If networking is about making connections, then connecting in a way that is comfortable to someone else is a most generous networking act.
- Ignore lists that tell you X or Y solutions for networking. One size does not fit all. The only way to network effectively is to be genuine. And that means, you have to do you.