Adulting is Hard: Stop Networking to Grow Your Career and Start Doing This Instead
by Paul Angone
Networking events feel like going to prom all over again, except you didn’t even come with a date this time. And you might be feeling even more self-conscious than you did at seventeen. (I didn’t believe this was possible either!)
My palms get sweaty just thinking about stepping into that loud room where everyone seems to know each other; my main goal, just like prom—not to make a fool of myself.
But you can’t act too shy because you have about three minutes before the Business Card Slinger smells your fear from across the room and has you signed up for his “can’t miss opportunity” before you even have a chance to say your name.
For so many years, I avoided “networking” opportunities like I avoided going to the pool as a teenager.
But then I realized I had networking all wrong. And I believe, for many of us, our “networking” attempts are actually having a negative effect on our job search, career building and entrepreneurial efforts.
Many of us have seen the stats that an estimated 70–80% of all job opportunities come through relationships, which I totally agree with.
But let’s stop networking to make it happen and let’s start relationshipping instead. When I switched from networking to “relationshipping” it changed everything for me.
Okay, so what does “relationshipping” actually look like and how do we do it well?
5 Ideas For Better Relationshipping
1. Build new relationships when you don’t “need” them.
We typically network when we need something. Then all too often we become that guy who’s roaming through the halls, giving off that nervous tinge of desperation. And the moment there is a lull in conversation, he thrusts his business card in there like a dead rat.
Start implementing a practice and habit of getting to know new people, even when you have no specific “need” to do so.
That’s the hardest part about networking—typically only doing it when we desperately need a door to open for us. Instead, cultivate the life habit of seeking out a new person every week and getting to know his or her story.
2. Be about them for the first 10 minutes.
I have a good friend who I consider a master conversationalist. He’s someone you can’t wait to speak to and be around. And if I had to boil down his secret conversational sauce to just one thing, I would say he’s just really good at being excited about the person in front of him.
When I asked him for his secret to being so good at conversations, he told me that when he goes into a conversation, he intentionally tries to have the person in front of him talk first for at least 10 minutes before he says anything about himself.
Stop parachuting into conversations and holding every minute hostage with all the things you’re passionate about.
Instead, start getting excited about all the things the person across from you is passionate about. Your excitement about them will make them much more excited about you.
3. Check in on people.
Send a text. A quick email. Make a call. Check in on people. In our hyperactive social world, the intentional “wanted to see how you are doing” message, with no favor to ask at the end, can go a long way to building a strong relationship.
4. Give real, meaningful compliments.
The most powerful relationshipping tool you have is a well-placed, meaningful compliment.
When reaching out to fellow alumni from your school. When asking to write a guest post for your favorite website. When trying to connect with someone through Twitter or LinkedIn.
No matter how big of a deal a person is, they will pay attention to someone who has noticed their work and has something nice to say about it.
Not a fake, cliché, general compliment about them being “amazing.” It needs to be something specific.
Do some research. Find an article they’ve written. Study a project they were involved in. Find a recent promotion on LinkedIn.
Don’t shout at a person, shout about how cool that person is.
The real power of social media is complimenting others instead of yourself.
5. Be present.
Every time you stare at your phone across from someone you’re supposed to be talking with, you’re telling them that your phone is more important than they are.
A Call for Intentionality and Authenticity
Let’s change the way we connect with people and allow a deeper, more meaningful connection to take place than any “networking” tactic will artificially produce.
Let’s stop networking like machines and start relationshipping like real people.
Let’s serve people in conversations without worrying about serving ourselves.
This article was adapted from Paul Angone’s new book 101 Questions You Need to Ask in Your Twenties (and let’s be honest, your thirties too)
Paul Angone is about dishing out truth, hope, and hilarity for college graduates, 20-somethings, and the entire Millennial generation. Paul is the best-selling author of the new book 101 Questions You Need to Ask in Your Twenties, 101 Secrets For Your Twenties, All Groan Up and the creator of AllGroanUp.com, which has received millions of visitors from over 190 countries. Grab for free the first ten questions from his new book here. Paul is married with three kids and lives in Denver, CO.
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