If you read a couple of career blogs, they generally talk about having to do lots of networking to propel your career. Now I personally don’t like traditional networking, so I’m probably not the person to preach whether you should network or not.
What I do know is that traditional networking, that is going to events and feeling like everyone is in a big race to see if they can hand out business cards and talk about themselves, just does not work.
I personally like to get to know people.
I’m not interested in superficial relationships.
I’m not interested in only building relationships to get ahead, as these tend to be one-sided and selfish relationships.
I also have no idea on how to talk ‘small talk’, although I’ve been told I do this really well, so it is more about my perception and feeling unauthentic, than reality.
So if you find yourself at a networking event, with a whole lot of big noters, and it feels strained, engineered and icky, in particular when you desperately need a job, then my advice is don’t go to these events.
The key to networking is to find activities and events that are natural. In reality, this means:
Build relationships based on substantive shared interests. So if you love games, go to gaming events. Gaming events attract everyone from lawyers, graduates, and entrepreneurs through to software developers. Through these games, you could find real connections. It is these real connections that lead to opportunity (and fun).
So what is it that interests you? There is no shortage of groups that will share your interest. Simply use tools such as Meetup, or Eventbrite where many of the events are free and not business related.
Now finding substantive shared interest does not mean you don’t go to business events. Just find business events that you are passionate about, rather than speed business dating.
Focus on what you can give, not what you can get. This is crucial. Whether engaging in a business event, or general event, consider everyone’s interests, needs and desires and how you can help them. Most people (not everyone) will reciprocate and networking will never feel inauthentic.
Once you focus on authentic, rather than icky networking, you will over time accumulate great contacts and establish meaningful relationships. This is what is going to propel success, not handing over large quantities or business cards and asking for a job.
What do you think? Do you find networking icky?