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You’ve all met the walking promotional machine. You can hear the sound of infomercial speak in their voice. As they talk, they are scoping you out as a lead, not a person. You start to feel…kind of dirty in this strange way.
This reality is why a lot of people cringe at the thought of networking. Just for curiosity: did you envision a man in my above description or a woman? Trust me I’ve experienced the same “pitchy” hello from both sexes plenty of times in the past 17 years. I experience both kinds the exact same way: all about a sale and not about a relationship.
Since I am a huge advocate of networking with my career-coaching clients, I try to walk to the talk. I genuinely like people, and go to networking events often.
If you know the ins and outs of networking with authenticity you can make some great connections and know how to get your way out of that slimy conversation. (You know the one that asks you to “set up a 15 minute call” within 8 minutes of knowing you!) Authentic connections can always hold the potential of turning into something more now or later.
A bunch of surveys told me that your brain likes lists, so I am caving. Here are a few quick tips on non-creepy networking
1. Ask questions about the person AND what they do. Without being too invasive you can ask general questions about a person and what they do. Catch yourself from asking yourself “What can this person do for me?” and ask “Who is this person, where are there synergies between our passions or work?”
2. Notice if you have an agenda. If you are getting ready to go to a networking event and you start to fill your head with lead quotas, you know you’ve gone into creepy land. You are about to be in a room with a bunch of human beings. Great contacts usually arise from great relationships.
3. To piggyback on #2: Network without expectations. People can smell the hunt a mile away. Ask yourself “What can I learn tonight/today?” or “Which of my projects or skills do I most want to share about in conversation?”
4. When you are job searching, network to connect. Making connections is great. When you are job searching you can feel more pressure to create a result. After having a genuine conversation with someone, where you’ve felt there may be a possibility, you might say “I really have enjoyed talking to you, can I contact you to connect further?” This shows respect of the person, their time, and its direct. Getting a salesy email the next day after an event are big eye rollers. Give them a heads up so they are expecting you. *Sometimes you hit the jackpot and you just might meet someone who is hiring or has a serious connection for you. Let these moments arise in conversation, and be prepared to share your elevator speech about who you are and what you do. You will know when this kind of a door opens. People usually say something like “Wow – we are looking for someone just like you, tell me more.”
5. If you love to be a promotional billboard, go ahead. Just know that some, not all people will be secretly waiting to get away from you. It’s worth repeating: good prospects come from good relationships. I’m really ok with being bold on this one. Keep it real and watch what happens.
Lastly, I love to support networking that really has impacted the way I interact with people in a business setting. For the pure joy of it, if you are in the NYC area (and female! sorry guys!), I strongly recommend that you check out the queen of networking Jenny Powers, CEO of Running with Heels and her intimate women’s business networking dinners. Of the many events I have been to over the years, these seem to really be the most enjoyable and where I’ve met some wonderful people. I attend to learn, connect, hear a great speaker, and build quality relationships. I highly recommend if you are local or visiting the NYC area that you check out RWH! There are plenty of evening and daytime events to choose from and I promise you will not be disappointed.
Happy networking! Lead with authenticity and meet some fabulous humans.