Networking: Some love it; some hate it.
Personally, I think it’s the word “networking” that turns people off, but either way, don’t underestimate the importance of intentionally meeting new people on a regular basis.
In fact, networking is an essential part of today’s changing world of work.
Creating new connections is a great way to build your professional relationships, learn about a business, and make new friends. In addition, allowing people to introduce you to others strengthens your existing connections with them. It’s always a great feeling when someone benefits from an introduction you’ve made on his or her behalf.
As a career transition coach, meeting people is part of my job. Each week I get to meet new people, listen to their stories, and discuss how we can infuse our gifts and purpose into the world. IMHO, what could be more interesting and rewarding than that?
Recently, I met Mary—a new connection who has attended one of my presentations and follows my posts on social media. She has been in career transition for over six months and is finally finding her momentum.
After some initial chitchat, Mary gave me a brief summary of her job history, shared a few stories, and directed me to her marketing one-pager—a simple version of her resume. From her words and examples, it was clear that Mary had been doing the work to find better clarity and direction on her new career path and had established solid intentions about her next steps.
As we continued our conversation, I couldn’t help feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to listen to Mary’s story. I was so happy to hear clear language and a positive attitude about her transition as she described herself and her interests. I also understood that the direct benefit of this clarity would put Mary in alignment with her next career opportunity.
Now it was just a matter of time. She was ready.
When I told Mary how impressed I was with her focus, her face softened in relief and a huge smile spread across her face. And then it dawned on me: The higher purpose for our meeting that afternoon wasn’t simply for us to meet each other, but for Mary to receive validation and encouragement for the hard work she’d been doing. This was her time to be recognized. This was Mary’s time to shine.
In that moment, I was reminded why I meet with so many people in career transition. It’s more about them than me. And when I’m able to relax into it and simply enjoy meeting people without an agenda, I’m able to engage the elements of true service—meeting others when they are on their journey and at a time when they need to feel seen and supported the most.
But there’s a personal payback included when we work from the heart. We also win. Experiencing this connection to others can feel like instant income. But this time, the payment we receive comes as feelings of goodwill, gratitude, and a peace that comes from being in alignment with our true inner being.
The true heart of networking isn’t about getting something from someone; it’s about building authentic relationships and serving others.
Networking is about knowing that when we give, we receive. And what could feel better than that?
Ready to start networking authentically? Here are a few tips from my coaching toolbox:
Connect to learn. Meeting new people is the ultimate opportunity to learn something new about somebody and the experiences they’ve had, which in turn, teaches you, too. Lifelong learning isn’t just a good idea; it’s a lifestyle.
Listen—for real life. When they were young, my nieces would reply, “For real life?” when you’d tell them something profound or surprising. This was intended to sift out facts from suggestions. So when you listen to others, do it authentically. Really listen and give them your full attention. And yes, Nicki and Natalie, this is for real life.
Connect to reflect. Since we cannot see or hear ourselves objectively, we can receive important feedback through the thoughts and words of others. There is much to be learned by listening to how others perceive us and characterize us. Curious about other people’s feedback? Then ask. But choose a trusted friend or colleague so the feedback is still honest and direct, but not in a critical way.
Be open and honest. People can spot B.S. a mile away, and the truth is transparent. Meeting someone new is your opportunity to try out new clarity and words about who you are and what you want, not the moment to make up short stories and tall tales. Just be honest; just be you.
Allow spontaneity. First, make sure you show up (i.e., get out of the house) and then see what shows up—be willing to not know what’s going to happen or what you will learn from somebody new. Inspiration can come to us from unexpected words, insights, or stories from other people, so be open to it. The gifts embedded in other people—especially in their stories—might surprise and delight you.
On a final note, if you do end up “getting something” from a networking lead—a customer, a sale, a job, or even a friend—then by all means, celebrate! Just remember that that is frosting, not cake. The cake is always the connection.
Now get out there and start meeting new people. For real life.
Michael Thomas Sunnarborg is a career coach, best-selling author, and founder of The White Box Club™—live coaching and resources for people in career transition. Find his syndicated blogs on Thrive Global, Medium, and The Huffington Post. Learn more at connect.michaelcreative.com
Looking for clarity? Download the Personal Priority Grid, or PPG™ clarity tool. And after you’ve filled out your grid and need to process your next steps, schedule your FREE 30-minute call with Michael. Now it’s your time to shine!