Sometimes that word “networking” just feels like work. It shouldn’t, though — networking isn’t just something you do, it’s a mindset — one that those of us at The Art of Charm (a company dedicated to helping people level up in life) particularly value.
Here are four ways to refresh the way you look at networking so you can start enjoying, rather than avoiding it.
Because chances are, if you’re miserable making small talk at a “lunch and learn,” chances are, the people you’re trying to connect with can tell.
1. Be Generous
Mia: “In conversation, do you listen, or wait to talk?”
Vincent: (Thoughtful pause) “I have to admit that I wait to talk, but I’m trying harder to listen.”
— Uma Thurman and John Travolta, Pulp Fiction
How can you identify a poor networker? He/she is just waiting for that moment to give that elevator speech and thrust that business card into your hand.
Why can’t we just think of networking as another way to get to know new people? That means getting to know someone, not just “what they do,” but, who they are, where they came from, and most importantly, what they’re passionate about.
Not only does this make for more interesting conversation, but it gives you more opportunities to add value to the discussion, by sharing an idea, book, or article you think they might enjoy (right then or later in an email).
2. Have a Platform
In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell famously introduced us to “Connectors.” We all know them. They are the people who “know everybody” and are natural hubs. While he talks about people being “natural” connectors, there’s nothing to stop someone who isn’t ordinarily labeled as such from using the same strategies to up his/her networking game.
One of those strategies is having a platform. This could be a monthly dinner, a poker night, or even a blog or a podcast (like ours).
Your platform will expose you to a constant stream of new people and ideas, and you’ll naturally start finding ways to connect them. From there, networking is just an organic byproduct of your platform.
3. Make it a habit
Remember that awesome feeling of seeing two friends hit it off after introducing them at a party? Nothing like bringing people together.
Unfortunately, sometimes our friends live far away from each other, and they’ll be hard pressed to connect via a party. That’s where making a habit of networking can benefit everyone you know.
Don’t just wait for in-person opportunities — take an opportunity once a week to examine your networks, personal and professional, to see how you can help the people around you “level-up,” via a virtual introduction that adds value to both individuals.
In what has often been referred to as the first book on personal development, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie outlined strategies, essentially, to make people like you. One of those pieces of advice is simple and enduring: Smile.
You might say to yourself, “but I don’t want to seem fake.” We could go into the scientific studies that show that smiling releases endorphins, lowers stress and anxiety, and even strengthens your immune system. But if that doesn’t convince you, perhaps this video from Funny or Die will help, as it outlines a condition that can afflict you if you don’t smile.
Networking doesn’t have to be work. And it doesn’t have to be an act we engage in periodically. It can simply be a more thoughtful way we live our everyday lives, which can lead to interesting and helpful connections with all those around us.
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