Networking Sucks If Its About You

 

Another networking event. Another mound of inexperienced, green salespeople that don’t give a crap about you, trying to sell you something you’ll never be able to convince your boss you need while trying to convince you they do in fact care. You? You’re more than likely looking for a lead for a sale, or for your next job, stuffing your face with the free food and booze, just like the rest. You’ll go home, follow up on the stack of business cards and more than likely never hear from them again unless you’re unsubscribing from their email blasts.

Why do you keep doing it? Is the next event “the” event that will make the difference to help you get that big lead or the next job? Is it because your boss requires you to attend so many per month to meet your goal?

Do me a huge favor. STOP.

Networking, by definition is the act of interacting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts. So did you see the word “lead” or “sale” or “job” in there? Nope. Somewhere along the line, networking turned into this big major event that inspired thousands of articles written on the best networking “tactics”, or paying folks a pretty penny to teach you to network better (both socially and in person).

I admit, I was one of the networking grinders when I was a sales rep. I went to events just because I felt I had to in order to get ahead, and hated it. I never saw anything come of it (barely, if ever), few leads, few opportunities, few meaningful connections. Thinking back on it, the majority of the events I went to were sponsored by salespeople, inviting salespeople. So we were essentially a shark tank with no minnows. Kind of pointless. Someone made a lot of money that wasn’t us.

I decided networking was mostly a scam for people to make money…until I met Marcia. Marcia was the CEO for one of my new assigned accounts at the time so I decided to pick up the phone and call her. Now, Marcia’s company rarely bought from us, but I always felt no matter how large or small a client is, they should know who they can call if they need anything.

Normally, I would get brushed off as just their “account rep”, but Marcia took the time to speak with me. We had a great conversation and then she invited me out to lunch. Over some bread and olive oil, she thanked me for actually reaching out to her via phone even though they were a small account, because she  felt no one did that anymore. We exchanged pleasantries, talked about our background and companies, and then she asked me if I did any networking. I relayed my feelings to her, and she agreed that networking isn’t easy, especially if you’re forced into it.

Then she asked me 2 very simple questions i’ll never forget.

“What are you hoping to accomplish with (company name)?”
“Who can I connect you with to make that happen?”

I honestly didn’t know what to say. I’m sure I flubbed out some sort of “um, uh” answer, but no one had asked me that before. Marcia then went on to tell me about some folks she could connect me with including career coaches, executives that may want to interview me, potential new clients, on and on. She knew a lot of people, but not once did she ever offer her services (which we could have used her services), all she wanted to do was connect me with someone that could help me.

To say it was an “aha” moment would be an understatement. I went on to LinkedIn later that day and connected with her and immediately got emails/calls from other clients of mine that knew her. “How do you know Marcia? She’s fantastic!” was the common theme. The stories of how she helped them and cared so deeply about getting them what they needed were plentiful.

From that point on, “networking” for me became a game of “who can I connect you with”, and interestingly enough networking became easier and more fulfilling. I started connecting people with recruiters or jobs that were hiring, people that could mentor them or get them things they may have needed and questions answered. It has been thrilling, and a great feeling seeing someone get what they need.

I believe that people are inherently good and want to help others (unless you’re of the “orange” variety, but that’s another rant over a beer), so doing what comes naturally to “network” is much easier. And frankly, in the long run, much more fruitful because the good you do will eventually come back.

Pay it forward

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