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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Networking Is Not an Action Verb

Just to be clear, I am hardly antisocial. But, there's just no way I am going to participate in any more 'networking' events. Please don't invite me if the word networking is prominent in the title or buried deep in the description. Definitely don't ask me if I want to 'commit' to a group that requires weekly 7 am meetings with mandatory homework assignments. That's not how I do business. [And quite frankly, I'm only this witty and charming because you DON'T have to see me every week.]

For me, networking has become a dirty little word that turns ordinary and enjoyable exchanges into desperate, sweaty attempts to shove one's business card into the palms of as many people as possible. Maybe you think this will solve some imaginary equation that might equal success - maybe you read it in a book, or heard about it from your psychic. I don't know, and I don't care. Trying to give your elevator pitch to someone who is impatiently waiting for you to stop speaking so that they can blurt out their own is not how you build relationships.

Every time I have been fooled into showing up at one of 'those' events, packaged as fun, but really not, I leave kicking myself all the way to the car. Even when I got 'leads', they weren't real. And mostly anyone who took my card was looking for a discount, or a freebie, or a hookup. Ew.

Networking is what should happen when you're busy doing other things. It's not something you should ever do for the sake of doing it. It's not an action verb. In fact, if you think it is, you're already doing it wrong.

The Law of Attraction begins with being attractive. That isn't how you look, by the way. It has less do to with your appearance than your attitude. If you walk into an exchange, be it with a salesman or a priest, the power belongs to the powerful.  Be powerful.

Somewhere along the way, I decided to take my own advice. My kids are in school and my husband works full time, so as a family, we have limited hours together each day. For me to make a conscious decision to leave the house when they're all home, it has to be just that...conscious. Therefore, I tend to reserve my evening outings for two things that I usually smush together: friends and fun.

No, I am not being hypocritical.  And, yes, I am a part of several groups out there. [I said I wasn't anti-social.] I choose to join ones, and attend events where I might learn something, hear someone interesting speak, support a worthy cause, or just have good old fashioned fun.

You want to meet people? Volunteer. You want to exchange business cards? Join a board. You want to get to know people well enough that when they refer you to someone, or recommend someone to you, it's already an almost done deal? Stop trying. Just stop.

People will tell countless stories of trying to have children. They take tests, undergo awful procedures, spend life savings, often for naught. The day after they 'give up', the magic happens. It happened when it was supposed to happen and it happened when they stopped trying to MAKE it happen.

I don't look for business anymore, not on purpose. Don't get me wrong...I want clients, I need clients, but that's not how I am going to find them. Lately, projects have been finding me. And these are the best kinds of projects, where I get out of bed excited to be working.

How'd it happen? I did what came naturally mostly. I met people for coffee. Joined them at yoga. Helped out at an event. Chatted at the cash register. Tweeted at the theater. All of these things were the kind of things that you do every day. I interacted with people, asked them what they needed and actually LISTENED. That's the action verb that counts. That's the game changer.

Want me to come to your event? Make it fun. Make it special. Make it about something other than coming to your event. Take me roller skating, ask me to help build a house, teach me how to do something, pour me wine

Ever wonder why so much business happens on the golf course? It's what happens when you're busy doing OTHER things. So, for goodness' sake, go do other things. 

[Then we can all stop complaining about being so damned busy, but that's a story for another day...]

Image courtesy of Under the Yard Arm
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