By Stacia Robinson, The BeneChoice Companies, www.benechoicecompanies.com
Many times, the thought of walking into a room of people you don’t know makes some people cringe and their stomach tie up into knots. They know the ‘should’ network; however, they may definitely feel like they would rather go to the dentist.
Does this describe you (or someone you know very well!J)? The point of networking is actually a lot less daunting than many people think. Some think the point of networking is to “get” something immediately from someone they just met. When new to networking, there are those that act on their thoughts that “If I’m going to meet someone, there hasto be a result; like asking for a job, having them buy from me, telling people they know about me so that I can ask THEM for a job or sell to them!”
Well, those of you who may think that’s the point of networking; well, you’re in luck. That’s not the point at all. The purpose of networking is just simply to meet people! You may be saying, “That’s it?” Yes, that’s it. When you meet people for a purpose, you are meeting them to START the process of getting to know them and them getting to know you. Once you have an initial conversation, your purpose is to meet them so that when you finish, they might remember you enough to connect you to people you may need to know, but not so fast.
Have you ever been to business mixer and noticed a few people running around making people accept their business card or brochure? Sometimes, they don’t even pause long enough to say their name! Or similarly, have you gone to a conference and seen someone go up to someone they obviously don’t know and ask something like, “I’m looking for a job and you’re the one who hires. How do I get an interview with you?” Unfortunately, those are the situations that give networking a bad name.
The purpose of networking is simply to meet people that you would want to know beyond an initial conversation. You won’t know if you want to get to know them until you meet them first.
So, when you first meet people, all you’re doing is talking with people to find a common interest that’s worth cultivating. When you first meet, you are talking with them to find out what’s of immediate interest to them and how that might connect to what’s of immediate interest to you. That perspective makes networking less stressful and redirects the focus.
Most of all, it is fun not to have an “agenda” when you meet people. People pick up on that and your authenticity makes you someone others want to know as well. Your ability to bring value by listening to them is what makes you valuable.