It is rare that a working day goes by when the topic of networking doesn’t come up. As one client recently quoted back to me, “Opportunity comes in the shape of other people.”
Apparently, I said that. And I truly believe it – I believe it about all kinds of opportunities: New jobs and clients and ideas, collaborators and mentors and friendships all come in the form of other people. The opportunities to live in homes, eat food, wipe our noses with soft tissues or embroidered hankies – they all come from other people, too.
And yet, despite our deep, human interdependence, easily 93.7% of people with whom I talk say that they are in some way averse to networking. Some people see it as a necessary and doable evil while others get all up in the world of can’t in those conversations: I can’t network, I hate small talk, I don’t know what to say, etc.
To that, I say two things:
- You’ve been doing this your whole life. That is, you’ve been building relationships – with friends, coworkers, romantic partners – and I’m here to tell you, if you’re treating networking as a transaction rather than an opportunity to build a relationship, you’re going to be disappointed with the results. No one wants to be pitched; we all want to be heard. Which brings me to:
- You’re better off if you don’t focus on talking. Focus on listening. Rather than bringing all of your great lines and your perfectly polished pitch, bring your curiosity. Ask questions. And really focus on listening.
That opportunity housed in the forms of the humans in front of us, it’s not realized because we came up with the most clever 30-second ad. Opportunity unfolds naturally in the presence of trust, and trust develops as we create connection which comes from sharing, conversation… and listening with authenticity.