Networking and People
How do you network? Do you find yourself networking a lot or do you find yourself not networking as much as you believe you should network? The word networking has got to be one of the most overused words in the English language today. No longer is it used to describe what sales people or marketing execs do. In actuality, it is something we all do everyday when we come in contact with people, regardless of how that contact is made.
According to Wiktionary, networking (apart from the ‘computer speak’ version of the word) is “the act of meeting new people in a business or social context.”
Today, the ability to network is a must for anyone who wants to accomplish a particular goal that in some way or shape affects others. Whether it be in business or on a more personal aspect, knowing how to and how not to network is more important than ever before. So why should you and I care about networking? Well, there is a quote from 17th century English poet John Donne (1572 – 1631) that states “No man is an island” and I believe this to be so true. Whether we want to admit it or not, our own personal actions and inactions affect others. In turn, the actions and inaction of others do affect us sooner or later.
Society is full of People
We are a society of people and with people come the various emotions, the personal backgrounds, the philosophical views, the visions of/for the world or lack there of. Because of this, when we connect with others we are sharing many aspects of ourselves with them. At some level, we are telling others who we are and how we’d like to be treated. The interesting thing is that we don’t always realize the message we are giving them. For example, have you ever been in a coffee shop and the person behind the counter is indifferent to your greeting? I’m a person who enjoys meeting other people. With that I always say “Hi” or “Hello” whenever I come up to the counter to ask for what I intend to purchase.
The Indifferent Coffee House Employee
Recently, a friend and I were at a Starbucks to get some lunch. When I went up to the counter to get a coffee I greeted the person by saying a simple “Hi”. The person behind the counter didn’t respond even though they were looking right at me. All well and good, I didn’t think much of it at the time. There was a handwritten sign on the counter advertising a new macchiato special they were having that day. When I inquired about the macchiato, the person cut me off in mid-sentence stating that the macchiato machine just broke and they don’t know if they’ll be able to fix it. (So no macchiato drinks today…bummer.) I said, “OK, no problem” and proceeded to place my order. I then said, “I suppose you’ll want to take the sign down so people won’t keep asking you about having a macchiato like I did.” The person behind the counter didn’t wait for me to finish my sentence and abruptly said, “Anything else?” not acknowledging that I made a brief statement in conversation about the sign. The sense that I got from the person was that he simply didn’t care. Didn’t care about being there, didn’t care about the statement I made, and most certainly didn’t care about me being there!
The person behind the counter told me a lot about himself, or how he’d like to be treated. The funny thing is that he probably didn’t know it or didn’t care. If you say the person behind the counter has the right to feel the way he wants to, I would I agree with you. But at the same time, so do I! That encounter, and the way it made me feel, stayed in my memory. That memory now pops up every time I’m passing by that Starbucks and makes me think, “Should I get a coffee from this Starbucks or should I get one from the Starbucks on the next block?” (Come on! You know there are many places out there with a Starbucks on every other block…you can’t miss ‘em.).
You may be saying right now that this is not an example of networking, but in fact it is. The person behind the counter was negatively networking with me. Although a rather minor scenario, the person’s attitude toward me and/or his situation gave the impression that he had a bad attitude and that this is a person I would not like to have work for me should the opportunity present itself in the future. My friend who was with me felt the same way. What is interesting is that my friend owns a rather well known business in the area and he employs many people. He told me that if that person were to apply for a position in his business, he would have to consider the way he witnessed me being treated. He wouldn’t want anyone with such an attitude working for him.
An important thing to keep in mind, whether online or in person is “We are always networking!” Every time we say hello to someone and they say hello back, we are networking with them. At the very minimum, we are recognizing their importance and letting them know it. To many people, a simple hello and good morning or good afternoon can brighten their day some even if only for a few moments.
What is the purpose of networking?
Some people may say that the purpose of networking is to find a job or to stay aware of possible employments opportunities. Even though this is a reason for networking, it is far from the only reason.
The purpose of networking, apart from finding a job or recruiting someone for a position, is really to:
- Connect with others in order to exchange ideas.
- Share commonalities with people who have similar interests or attributes.
- Find people who can answer a question you may not have the ability to answer yourself (e.g. by connecting with someone, I am making myself available to answer their questions and support them, they, in turn are available to help me with a question I may have).
- Finding/re-connecting with family, an old friend or colleague.
- Finding a mentor or possible mentee.
A blog post by Dennis Stevenson titled “The Value and Purpose of Networking” probably said it best by saying, “Networking is about building relationships and friendships that may never provide specific value back to me. Then again, they may be tremendously valuable.”
The truth is you never know if the person you are networking with online or in person may be of value to you, or if you may be of value to them. Probably just as true is you never know if the person you are networking with may be a huge hindrance to you or not.
The funny thing is that we’re all networkers in one fashion or another, whether we choose to accept it or not. Some of us are better at networking than others simply because we’re aware that we’re always networking. We’re always being judged, for good or for bad, as to what kind of person we are everytime we interact with someone. The memory of the interaction afterwards can either be a good one or a bad one.
How do you choose to be remembered by another person after interacting with them?
Let us know your thoughts…Leave a comment!