Some people think networking is a dirty word. They regard networking events as being a roomful of tiresome, pushy and self-absorbed people trying to take advantage of each other to make a quick buck – speed dating for desperate business owners. If that describes the events you’ve been to then no wonder you’re over it! No wonder networking has become a dirty word to you.
To be fair, like all things, there are networkers and networkers. Being surrounded by the type described above is a waste of time. Self-absorbed, slick operators are as endearing as a white pointer before it’s had breakfast so learn to identify them early and move on.
Eventually, you’ll meet people who excel at the craft. You’ll recognise them because they let you do the talking. They encourage you to tell your story – the good, the bad, the ugly. They ask probing questions about your skills and accomplishments. They genuinely rejoice with you when you tell of your successes. They seek ways to help you with your problems. All this boils down to one thing – they are just getting to know you and investing their precious time to do this.
So if networking is a dirty word to you, look for people in the crowd at your next event who are listening or asking questions. Sidle up and introduce yourself – the good networkers will make space for you, the Me, Me, Me, types will freeze you out. If sidling up isn’t your thing, ask the gathering’s organiser to provide an introduction to breaking the ice. Then, ask some questions about their achievements, business and skills. Learn about their contacts and interests. Who knows, you might find some common ground, ways to help or potential business synergies. If it all goes well, suggest a coffee on another occasion to shore up the relationship and to provide an opportunity to learn more about each other.
And remember, the first thing you have to give is time. Rush it and you’ll look like the slick operators you are trying to avoid.