“I hate networking,” is a phrase I hear all the time. My friends, family, and even clients use it to convey their disapproval of the dreaded events and processes that are involved in building relationships. But what’s so bad about networking? After all, it’s a way to build meaningful and trusting relationships that should be genuine and authentic.
I can’t say that I always liked to network – in fact, I used that key phrasing all too often when it came to establishing connections with fellow business owners and clients. My change of heart and mind came when I realized that I didn’t hate networking at all – I only hated the way I was approaching it.
With that in mind, I’ve decided to address 3 common myths that might be making you think you hate networking, and what to do about it instead.
Myth: I’m bad at networking.
What to do instead: You probably are not bad at networking, you just need to find what works for you. Find your unique networking style and let that work for you so you can build relationships in a sustainable and authentic way.
Personally, I hate big networking events. If I know anyone there I’m likely to spend the entire night talking to them and not networking at all. If I don’t know anyone, being faced with a large room full of strangers fills me with fear and anxiety.
I know I’m not alone, but so many of us think of networking as talking to as many people as possible (usually in big, formalized receptions). Think instead about what kind of networking you enjoy—helping someone solve a problem, having a philosophical discussion, reviewing or recommending books, etc. Then think about a few people you click with but want to know better. Make a conscious effort to reach out to them and find an activity that feels like real relationship building.
Myth: I don’t have time to network.
What to do instead: Prioritize. Do you want to learn more about a particular company, industry or role? Think of who you know, who you want to be introduced to, and who can open these areas up to you.
Plan to spend about one hour a week reaching out and talking to people. Even if you only spend 1 hour a month — if you do it with a purpose and plan, it can reap huge benefits. (Bonus points if you write down your plan: who you want to connect with and what you want to talk to them about. Writing it down makes you much more likely to follow through.)
Myth: Networking is about getting something from the other person.
What to do instead: If you think about networking this way it instantly becomes uncomfortable. Two mindset shifts make a huge difference:
1. Networking for the joy of getting to know someone.
2. How you can make the relationship reciprocal.
If you think about getting to know someone in an authentic way you’ll start to get to know them. Then, organically, you’ll see opportunities for how you can be helpful to each other. This key word—helpful—will change the way you approach conversations. It’s not about getting something from someone, it’s about creating a real connection and being helpful.
Networking doesn’t have to be a big headache and certainly not something that we should approach with disdain and fear. Changing a few things like your mindset, your priorities, and finding your unique networking style are just a few simple ways that you can begin to change your attitude about it. Networking is about forming real connections to other people, not forcing yourself to make a connection for sole gain. Think about the kinds of people you would like to talk to and who you’d like to meet, then reinforce how you can be helpful to them.