NETWORKING, SOCIAL MEDIA, CONNECTIONS
net·work·ing (noun) : the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically : the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business (Mirriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary).
Networking is defined as the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business, and as I started to build out my coaching business, it was a no-brainer to start with networking. People are always the key to any successful endeavor. I was delighted and a little surprised to find the sheer volume of networking events I could attend almost any day of the week in New York City. In addition, there are a plethora of coaches and consultants, webinars/seminars available to help you network better and grow your business. I continue to learn a lot from all the amazing networking aficionados out there.
As I started to go to events and listen to some of these webinars, what struck me is that what I was really learning was how to build a relationship with another human being that I had just met. When the ice isn’t already broken because of a shared memory or context, how do I build a mutually beneficial bond with a stranger that will last past the evening and stand out amongst all the other people we were meeting in the span of that evening? It came down to making a connection, paying attention to what was being shared, sharing authentically and following up! Wow, these are skills that would foster better relationships in any situation.
Whether you are networking professionally or socially in your personal life to make a new friend or dating, it ultimately comes down to building a strong human connection with a person who doesn’t know you yet.
Making a Connection
The most important first step in any networking situation is to start a connection. At an event that looks like walking over to a group or a person and saying hi. In your personal life, it can be walking over to someone at a bar, or setting up your profile online and sending a message. For a new mom, it can be joining a mother’s chat group. For a relocated family, it can be knocking on your neighbor’s door. Without that initial connect, nothing else is possible – but once that door opens, anything can be on the other side!
I used to associate the idea of “selling” with networking and immediately feel uncomfortable. I realize now, that networking is not about selling as much as it is about exchanging information. I get to hear what a person has to offer and highlight what I bring to the table with the hopes of building something together, directly or indirectly. It’s the space to create a win-win. Sometimes the neighbor may not become your best friend but can put you in touch with someone else who will be (“source of referral”). Or you can learn something valuable from a date.
I have found that the process is as honest and authentic as I make it. For example, if you have a product to sell, which you believe is great, you would be excited to share the benefits. When I love is that when I put my energy towards being my best, I have less time to judge the other person! On a date, if you focus on being likable, you have less time to consider superficial things like your date’s shoes or eating habits!
So you’ve made a connection and shared some features, you’ve piqued someone’s interest, now your networking contact /date/neighbor is ready for a deeper dive. Sometimes this increase level of intimacy and interest is a bit scary and I noticed that I tend to respond with asking questions and deflecting away from myself. Being aware of this, I can now share, authentically. Without sharing who we really are, we don’t give a new date or a new friendship a chance the basis to make a fair decision on whether to extend this connection. And although we are afraid that rejection is in store, the truth is the more we share, the more a new person can relate and find something in common to cement the connection!
Connecting, enrolling, sharing – you are now ready to set the foundation of a beautiful new relationship. A new business partner or referral source, a love connection or even a new neighborhood friend if you just relocated to a new city! So no matter where you are, go out and network, network, network!