For many people, networking can often feel like an anxiety-inducing prospect. When not done properly, networking can even feel like an exercise in using people to get ahead. For these reasons, many people choose to avoid networking altogether. Unfortunately, that can cause individuals to miss out on great opportunities and great friendships in the professional world.
In a sense, critics of networking are correct in having certain reservations about the practice. Go to any networking function, and it’s easy to become inundated with a barrage of garrulous and insincere people handing out business cards to everyone they meet. Such events are frustrating because the relationships they engender tend to one-sided and selfish.
Fortunately, there are many ways to turn networking into a healthy and rewarding activity for everyone involved. When people think about networking from a win-win perspective, for example, networking can even be fun. To wit, true networking occurs when people genuinely like and respect one another.
Think back to any good friendship you’ve formed in the professional world, for instance, and you’ll probably find that opportunities that developed as a result of that friendship came about naturally. Perhaps you knew someone who had a great skill-set and could recommend that person for a job opening that you knew about. Perhaps someone saw how well you would do at a particular company and recommended you to their hiring manager.
In such scenarios, individuals are able to help one another because they genuinely feel that it is right to do so. Far from being an exercise in selfish social climbing, good networking involves the practice of helping those who deserve to be helped. In the process, others may help us to achieve our own goals.
When networking occurs naturally, in other words, the results can be great. Networking doesn’t have to involve a fake smile and a willingness to use others to get ahead. In fact, that kind of networking often fails to help anyone get anywhere. How many of us actually want to help someone who is merely using us for their own advantage?
At the next function you attend, try forming genuine friendships with people who interest you. Don’t set out to try to meet people who will advance your career; try meeting people who may simply be rewarding to know. If your interests align and you are able to help one another in a professional capacity, so much the better, but the true reward of such meetings will lie in forming new friendships with peers. Truly, that is networking at its best!