We’ve all had bad networking experiences, but how many of us can say we’ve had great ones? The kinds with meaningful exchange and lasting connection? It all boils down to your mindset: when you lead with authenticity and an entrepreneurial attitude, every networking experience has the potential to be amazing.
A study discussed by Harvard Business School found that professional networking makes people feel dirty. But taking a promotion approach to networking—thinking about growth, advancement, and what you have to offer—mitigates those feelings by enhancing authenticity.
When you network authentically, you’re not just doing it for your own advantage, but to help other people as well. You represent yourself clearly, and consider what it is that you can bring to the table. You don’t change or dilute yourself because you’re in front of a different audience; instead, you find the parts of yourself that relate to the parts of someone else and use those as a form of connection.
Ask yourself: what are the qualities you care about? What makes your own interests, opinions, and experiences worth sharing? When you recognize your own value, it becomes much easier to see the value in others.
Remember to frame your approach holistically: how are you important and engaging beyond a professional level? Apply that to your prospects to go beyond a one-dimensional view of them and engage with them more fully. If you’re not interested in what someone is talking about, you can certainly be interested in why it’s interesting to them.
In other words, replace a transactional mindset with an entrepreneurial mindset. Understand that value can come from unexpected places, and relationships are critically important to success. Know that the more you give to an ecosystem, the more you get. You don’t need to be an entrepreneur to benefit from the view that relationships are a key means of growth for all parties involved.
Know the “why.” Are you looking to learn skills? Get a new perspective? Find exciting opportunities? Having clarity behind your intentions helps you engage in authentic networking.
Be the spotlight. Think about attention as a spotlight: when you give it to people, they shine. Be generous with your attention, and ask people questions that set them up for success to express their passions. Come into the discussion prepared to honor people with your listening.
Build your brand. A personal brand isn’t just the words you use to describe yourself; it’s the actions you do to signal your interests and skills, and how you package that with words and positioning. Ask yourself what the space is that you want to occupy in someone’s mind: do you want to be their go-to for movie recommendations? The person with the most innovative ideas? Take the actions to get there.
Remain active and consistent. Always be on the lookout for ways to add value to your relationships. One of the easiest ways is to socialize your reading: every time you read an article, send it to someone you think would benefit from it. Share your resources, learning, and ideas to enrich someone’s day and demonstrate your commitment with a small gesture.
You don’t have to pitch yourself to start a professional relationship—being observant, paying attention, and honoring all of the other person’s diverse interests communicates interest and engagement. Use the question, “What am I curious about?” to guide you to people who are able to share or address your curiosity.
Check out our latest Lunchtime Live session to hear from Zach and Purnima on how to enrich your networking experience. Learn their best practices and tools for engaging in authentic interactions and fostering meaningful connections.