Last week during a workshop I was asked by a woman, “How do you avoid that cheesy, sorta slick ‘salesy’ networking?” The question was followed by an explanation that she feared people would feel she was using them to find a job.
Five days earlier in a different workshop with a crowd of investment advisers the same question was asked and a similar sentiment was expressed by several attendees.
The first person to mention it was concerned that people would think he’s just talking with others and being nice because he wants to invest their money. The question I posed to him was, “Well, are you just talking with them because you want their money?” The adviser answered honestly, “Sometimes yes; sometimes no.” Hmm, let’s focus on the connecting with the “sometimes no.”
This type of honesty is a good start to avoiding the cheesy, slick “salesy” networking approach. True networking requires genuine
connections with others that can develop over time into solid, CONNECTED mutually beneficial business relationships.
I’m not sure where the whole Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy approach to networking began, let alone the fear that otherwise genuine professionals would come across this way when meeting new contacts. (If you haven’t seen the movie, it encompasses all things cheesy and symbolizes exactly what not to do when socializing.)
Unless you’re inclined to flex your biceps and give those “guns” a kiss before entering a room, I think most people are safe from earning a reputation as “cheesy,” so collectively we can let go of that fear.
Being seen as someone who uses people and is out to push his or her agenda is far more likely and requires some self-reflection and adjustment.
Managing your intentions when networking is important. If you are just meeting and greeting people and forcing conversation according to who has money versus who doesn’t, or who knows potential employers and who doesn’t, then you won’t get too far with your efforts. People will see through your laser-like focus and self-serving intentions and won’t be inclined to help.
The difference between someone who people believe is just networking versus the slick guy is subtle. Networking/relationship building is a different stage in the relationship than talking shop and making a sale. Blurring the lines and trying to make the sale when you’re out “networking” puts people off.
There is a time and a place for all of the above, but the wise, genuine networkers realize the distinction and manage their intentions for the appropriate circumstance.
It’s not that people are blind to the fact most people have something to sell. It’s just that people don’t want to be “sold” and will resist unless they give you the green light. Creating a genuine connection first makes it so that they are at least willing to be interested in what you have to offer.
If you step back from your agenda when you enter a room and focus instead on meeting people with whom you have a genuine connection and therefore would like to connect again, then you may meet people with money or maybe those without, but you are more likely to reap the benefits from the relationship.
There are a lot of people in this world. Not everyone is willing to help a young professional find a job, nor does everyone want to invest money with you. That’s OK. Find the ones who do. Work life is enjoyed more when you interact with people with whom you are naturally aligned.