Why Networking Does NOT Have to Be a Dirty Word

The word “Networking” has become almost a dirty word in business. Some even physically shudder when they hear it, especially when it is combined with the word “Event”. So how can we make networking easier and perhaps even enjoyable, especially in our day to day lives? This is an interesting question in that networking opportunities are everywhere and yet nowhere, depending on your effort, perspective, and frame (of mind).

Let’s look at your typical day to day of the average american:  wake up, go to work 9-5 (where you don’t talk to anyone or at best the same few people), go home, watch tv, go to bed, rinse and repeat. If this is you do not feel bad, it’s extremely common. However, it also makes networking very difficult.

If that is your day to day, you can still open yourself to networking by taking a ten minute break to go for a walk, getting a cup of coffee at the local shop, etc. Perhaps you will chance into an encounter. However, just doing these things is not enough. When you do them you must go out of your way to introduce yourself and hope the other person is interesting. Hopefully, you are beginning to see the problem with this approach and mindset. That is, your day to day does not give you many opportunities to network, much less meet new people. In addition, if you do then many of these opportunities are left to chance. So give up. The End…

Kidding!

However, many people are too stuck in routine to either change their day to day or see that they are working off the wrong premise. So my beautiful, action taking friends, the question is not how can I use my day to day to network better but how can I make my day more interesting and conducive to meeting other awesome action taking folks? Depending, on your current interests or targets to grow your network this could include things such as attending local chamber of commerce meetings, local MeetUps, etc. Where we are located in Costa Mesa, California, there are tons of these events every day. This number increases exponentially when you expand to the greater Orange County areas and even Los Angeles. If you somehow stumbled across this post from the far reaches of the earth, you probably still have meet up groups somewhere around you or groups you can join online. You must take the initiative to do so, no one will do it for you.

Networking doesn’t have to take place in a stuffy room…

Today there really is a group for just about anything. I meet a lot of interesting people at the gym, for instance. Another alternative is to take a class in something you’re passionate about. Photography, yoga, art, hip hop dancing, extreme ironing, really whatever you are into. At these places you will meet other like minded enthusiasts, it will be easy to build rapport, and eventually if you click with someone they will be part of your network or social circle. Ultimately, you may do business together as we tend to buy from people we know, like, and trust.

Showing up is only half the battle.

90% of people will do this and then have a short awkward conversation and then leave the event or meeting thinking, “that was worthless, I didn’t meet anyone worth while, networking is dumb.” 🙁

The really effective networkers will search the guest list before hand, find 1-3 key people they want to meet, and engage them by asking relevant and insightful questions. They will also follow up with those people after the event.

This is more on the advanced side of things and while I will write about more high level tactics in the future, for today I am focusing on helping you take the first step to get out there.

Simple right? Easy, not so much. This will require extra time on your part, extra effort, some initial discomfort most likely, and breaking out of your routine. I personally can sympathize, I have no problem jumping off a cliff on my snowboard or any other number of activities, yet I still get butterflies before walking into a room of people I don’t know. Luckily I’m not one to throw up.

The thing I have learned is that the more you do it, the easier it gets. These skills are truly like a muscle, as cliché as that is. And I can proudly say that today my butterflies are now just a handful as opposed to a swarm. In addition, most people are either just as nervous or don’t care about you yet because they don’t know you. So you can literally be whoever you want. Walk in the room with confidence, smile, and no one will know you’re nervous at all.

A final point. At least one person reading this has thought to themselves, well Frank that’s all fine and good but I don’t have enough time, I have no interests, insert excuse here ______. Well my good people I know you can do it. Whether you will or not is up to you. How bad do you want to have a network that can support you when times are tough and that you can support and give back to.

As well known Author and thought leader Ramit Sethi says, “Top performers build their network BEFORE they need it. That’s how they can get laid off on a Monday and have a better job lined up by Friday. Read that sentence again, please — it means that top performers are comfortable meeting people and cultivating relationships with no specific purpose. In fact, it’s almost always to help the other person!”

The top performers or networkers know that networking is about giving value to others with no expectation of any return. Yet, when you get out there, take conscientious proactive steps, and give value, not only will your network grow, you will be way ahead of the game when you need your network the most.

Disclaimer: This blog discusses general legal issues, but it does not constitute legal advice in any respect.  No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented herein without seeking the advice of counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.  Reading or relying on any such information found within this blog in no way, shape, or form creates or constitutes an Attorney-Client Relationship. The author and his firm expressly disclaim all liability in respect of any actions taken or not taken based on any contents of this letter.

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