My Thoughts on “Networking”
I absolutely hate the term “networking.”
Growing up, I had never heard the term and certainly didn’t use it as a verb in my daily lexicon. When I was in college, someone recommended that I read Keith Ferazzi’s book, Never Eat Alone, which I dutifully read and remember thinking how disingenuous it made personal interactions seem. I think Keith’s intention was to write a book about how to be “genuine” in making connections and expanding your professional network, but I think it painted a different picture. Does everyone have an angle? Does everyone have a hidden (or not so hidden) agenda? Maybe, but I personally find nothing more unappealing than when someone says they are meeting someone or doing something to “network.” I hate the word, and by the way, I maintain that it’s not a verb, though Merriam-Webster would disagree with me.
I do agree with Keith’s sentiment that one should never “keep score,” but do think that people should take care to be sensitive to other people’s time, interests, and past help. In his book, Keith took umbrage when an acquaintance did not immediately fulfill Keith’s request to meet a major Hollywood executive whom the acquaintance knew (and seemingly did not know well). Though it’s my genuine desire to be helpful to just about everyone I come in contact with, I can understand not wanting to bother a new acquaintance (particularly a very busy one) with a third party’s request for an introduction. I don’t think of it as using up “equity” in the relationship, as Keith’s acquaintance puts it, but I do think of it as using up someone’s time. One comes across as pushy and disrespectful of another’s time in immediately trying to “harvest” a new business relationship for your own or someone else’s gain. Use common sense, be genuine, and be respectful of others’ time and feelings.
In my brief adult life, I have generally found success in reaching out to people that I am genuinely interested in meeting or talking to. Of course, I’m interested in meeting with certain people because I am looking for insight, guidance, mentorship, a specific business purpose, or sometimes plain curiosity. I’m always up-front with my intentions and generally have a pay-it forward attitude when people reach-out to me for similar purposes. I have a hunch that if people stopped thinking of “networking” as a calculated activity and started thinking of it as an opportunity to meet someone you can learn from or be helpful to, they might find more success and satisfaction.
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