Yes. I like paying my quarterly taxes more than networking. I like visiting the DMV more than networking. I like cleaning up piles of cat spittle on the basement floor and emptying the Roomba* more than I like networking.
* no, but seriously, I actually looooove emptying the Roomba
Which is to say: I do not enjoy networking. I do not enjoy wandering around hotel conference rooms, squinting at nametags, reciting my elevator pitch. I do not enjoy telling people what I do when I’m already 99% sure we wouldn’t be a good fit. I don’t like digging in my wallet for business cards and being all “Yeahyeahyeah let’s grab lunch sometime!”
But at a launch party a few years ago I ran out of business cards, had 1.5 cocktails, and inadvertently stumbled onto a ‘networking philosophy’ that totally changed the way I view the whole she-bang.
I stopped worrying about what I could get out of a given interaction – a sale, a new client, a new sponsor – and started thinking about how I could help.
At the risk of sounding like a total hippie: You won't hate networking if you approach it looking to give instead of get. Click To Tweet
What if we approached those networking events thinking:
- How can I be helpful?
- How can I connect people?
- What knowledge can I share?
Not only is it nicer, IT IS JUST SO MUCH EASIER. We can stop trying to find an angle. We can stop trying to close the deal. We can lean back, sip that watered down vodka gimlet, and actually listen.
When they say “I know I need to optimize my site, but I don’t understand SEO,” you can say “I looooove my SEO guru! You should call her!” When they say “I’m being courted by this mastermind group but it’s ludicrously expensive,” you can tell them how you DIYed your own mastermind retreat. For free.
And if there’s no way you can help them or connect them with anyone? You can just make conversation with them! Like a normal human being!
An added bonus to lazy, good karma networking: It will remind you of how capable and connected you actually are. When everyone and their dog is talking about six-figure months and posting photos on yachts, it’s easy to feel like everyone knows something you don’t. It’s easy to look at other people’s clean, polished websites and think, “They have it all together! I’m just googling as I go and throwing things together in Canva!”
a. Nobody has it all figured out.
b. Networking and meeting new people can be an opportunity to remind yourself that you do, in fact, know a lot of things. You’ve done awesome stuff! You know great people! Your knowledge is helpful! You might not remember that till you blow someone’s mind by telling them about Twitter lists or title text. And then allofasudden, you remember that what’s obvious and basic to you is a total game-changer for someone else. High five, self!
And this approach isn’t limited to IRL networking! You can use it online! I’ve been friends with Kathleen Shannon for years and it all started because she wrote about her struggles reacclimating to ‘normal life’ after her trip to Nepal. I’d been to Nepal a few years earlier, so I sent her a long email saying, essentially, “I KNOW RIGHT?!”
My friendship with Latha began when she offered up her couch for my trip through Mumbai. My friendship with Freya started with fevered emails about teaching English in Asia. Nobody was pitching anybody; we were just humans being sweet to each other.
Ways you can be helpful + authentic when you network
- Share the names of the contractors you love + swear by
- Did you take an amazing course? Tell them about it!
- Dish on the apps + plugins you use
- Are they going through a problem or experience you’ve been through? Tell them how you solved it or just be supportive
- If they’re traveling somewhere you’ve been, share your best tips
- If a client, course, or program was notably not good, consider diplomatically and professionally telling them so
- Tell them which books helped you (I loved this book and this book.)
- Just be a kind, supportive human! Say “I’m sorry. That really sucks.”
But I want to hear from you! How do you deal with networking? Do you like it? Hate it? Share your tips in the comments!