In this weekly series, our friends at MBA Career Coaches will be dispensing invaluable advice to help you actively manage your career. Topics include building your network, learning from mistakes and setbacks, perfecting your written communication, and mastering even the toughest interviews.
Do you think that the purpose of a networking event is to impress people? Is it to deliver your elevator pitch as many times as possible and hope that one of them sticks? Is it to be sure to let people know what you have to offer? Or worse, is it to figure out what the other people in the room have to offer you? A networking event is not an Egyptian bazaar where everyone is hocking their wares, and you need to stop treating it that way.
Many who try speed dating, hate it. But speed dating is actually a very good analogy for networking events. In dating, connecting with someone is not about what they have to offer you in terms of income, skills, abilities, or other connections. We are seeking genuine human connection when we date. But sometimes when we meet people for networking purposes, we ignore the importance of connecting with the human being, and somehow think it is okay to connect on a transactional basis. This is backward!
If you want to take the transaction out of networking and get people to like you, you have to leave your agenda at home. The time to work your agenda is in a second or third conversation with someone. So take the emphasis off your professional successes and the value you have to offer. Take your attention off the person’s title, company, or position, and just be yourself. Talk about subjects you care about, professional or not. Listen to what the other person says. If a connection is made, ask the person for a business card and create a reason to follow up. Later on, if it turns out either one of you can be useful to the other, you will figure it out soon enough. But a connection that is made on a person-to-person basis will always be stronger than one based on a transaction.