Networking is one of those overused clichés that teachers, self-help gurus, and personal finance bloggers like to throw around. I think what happened was that someone took a pretty straight-forward premise – the idea that human beings are social animals and like to help people they have relationships with – and put a pin-striped suit on it, gelled its hair up, and gave them shiny dress shoes (they “Wall-Streeted” the idea). Now it fits nicely in lists and business textbooks. The unfortunate side effect is that all of this “networking” talk is combined with lack of social awareness under-30s have developed as a result of looking at various screens instead of at each other, is a lot of well-meaning douches – for lack of a better term.
Related: Using LinkedIn For NetworkingYou know the type. The guy/girl that strolls up to you, and is obviously stroking off a mental checklist in their mind:
- Make eye contact
- Shake hand firmly, but not too firmly
- Smile – statistics show 79% of people prefer smiley faces
- State Name
- State website/job/something else
- Politely try to file away other person’s name and how they might one day help you
- Nod head to show you’re an “active listener”
- Offer your business card and ask for theirs
- Ok it’s been 5 minutes and my shot clock is running low, I must move on to suck the life out of someone else’s evening
What Can I Get Out of You?
There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with some of those things in isolation, but when people come up to me and treat me like I’m a resource to be utilized instead of a potential mutually-beneficial relationship, it just kind of irritates me. I tend to automatically throw those people to the back of my mental rolodex and since I’m bad with names, that’s the same as never having met me at all.
Maybe I’m too high maintenance. I’m not saying you have to wine and dine me before we’re close enough to ask me for a favor, but what I am saying is that trying to create as minimal a relationship as possible in order to exchange cards with someone is not that beneficial for the long-term.
Here is what gets me thinking about how to help someone – actually be interested in what I have to say! I realize that this step is often skipped over in the guide of how to make 40,000 business contacts before your 30, but I don’t thin, I’m the only one that feels that way. I like to think I can talk to on a pretty wide range of interests and issues – hell, even if we resort to the classic cop out of sports and weather it’s better than nothing.
Pretend I Matter to You as Another Person
The most effective bonds are made when we go through a challenging process alongside someone else. This builds trust and camaraderie – it’s part of our survival DNA as humans. Obviously a process like that is difficult to simulate at a cocktail party, but people can at least take a fifteen to minutes to learn a little more about you and then follow up with a more personal social call at some other point. That certainly requires more time and effort, but I’m almost certain that the end result would be far fewer cards given out, yet far more actual connections that you can add to your “network”. People don’t magically become a part of your network simply because you went through the 8-steps to networking success when you met them, they become someone you can feel comfortable asking for help or doing a favour for when you actual feel a human connection. Otherwise couldn’t we just walk around tapping our smartphones into each other in order to exchange enough information to be useful to one another?
My network is relatively small, but I’m confident I have more than enough actual relationships that I’m almost always only 2 degrees of separation away from someone who can fix any problem I might encounter. Because the people on my “friends list” have similar attitudes to how they treat others, they too know actual people that will help a friend that is vouched for, not just a bunch of guys who have libraries full of business textbooks and desk drawers full of really cheap business cards.