The Secrets to Authentic Networking
I hear these people say that networking is intimidating. Or rather, the idea of connecting with complete strangers, prospecting and talking, is scary and overwhelming.
But is “networking” truly as frightening as it sounds? Is it the idea that selling something that is inauthentic to you that is more frightening than the conversation itself? I’d like to invite you to break-down what networking means and how we can consider it a stepping stone to developing mutually beneficial authentic relationships.
Many believe that networking is the meeting of people for the sole purpose of selling each other things. Or selling yourself as a service provider. It’s easy to think that way, considering everyone is from a different business background looking to gain something. But, if I told you that networking could be nothing more than just meeting like-minded people, how would that feel to you?
In my early days of helping grow Innovate Pasadena and TechSparks, a tech startup community, I learned that connecting with people in a genuine manner helped fuel my path much faster and deeper than ‘selling’ myself.
I learned that networking offered several benefits including:
- Gaining new perspectives
- Learning new topics
- Expanding your horizons
- Understanding yourself (and others!)
- Making new friends and coffee dates
- Adding or gaining value from new information
- and of course, phenomenal conversations!
So, how can you get better at networking? Here are my four secrets to authentic relationship building.
- Always Be Curious. I don’t mean the type of person who wants to know every single thing that is ‘none-of-your-business’, but approach conversations with genuine curiosity about the other person. You may want to ask questions about how they got started in their career, what they love the most about their business or what takeaways they got from the conference. Alternatively, adopting a student-like mentality can help the other person relax and feel more comfortable speaking with you. Approaching conversations with curiosity invites the other person to share more about themselves. You never know what you don’t know. Being curious helps.
- Always Be Listening. Listening is a two way street. First, aside from networking, take the time to listen to your inner thoughts and dialog. This step is important because you want to know if your inner dialog sound confident, whimpy… or lost. When you are confident (or lost), your mindset and approach with others will naturally follow suit. Secondly, intentionally listen to what people are sharing with you. It’s so easy to ignore or challenge what others are saying to get your ‘two cents’ in, and that is not attractive. Take the time to ponder their words, opinions and reciprocate your thoughts whether you agree or disagree. It’s okay to banter too! Side note, don’t go around flaunting that “you know better” because that’s is poor form.
- Develop Your Core Life Values. Core values are also known as mission or guiding statements that you fundamentally believe in. The more you know “who, what and why” you do what you do, the easier it is to live your life and be true to yourself. (If you are need help figuring out your core values, feel free to schedule a call with me to explore that.) The more true you are to yourself, what you believe in and what you stand for, the easier it becomes to attract people and converse who those that are in alignment with you as a person.
- Invest in people who reciprocate. Time is money and authenticity is kind. Be kind to yourself and invest in people who invest in you. Also, take the time to connect with people who offer genuine support. What this signals is that the other person wants to see you succeed and thrive. When you invest in good people, and you reciprocate in-kind, you create a relationship that is neither superficial nor vain. You can’t create quality & authentic relationships with someone who doesn’t give two squats about you. So chose people wisely…
When you approach networking with complete honesty and transparency (while being true to your core values) it helps create space for authentic relationships. Networking shouldn’t be a ‘one-and-done’ opportunity, rather an invitation to help each other learn and grow. This approach has helped fuel my business and get introductions to people I would have never thought possible.
What are your tips to authentic networking? Do you agree? Comment below with your experiences.
Author: Sonya is a former tech-founder, entrepreneur, brand strategist and business coach, helping businesses and entrepreneurs craft extraordinary brands out of ordinary chaos. Her favorite topics are brand strategies, user-experience, digital marketing, emotional intelligence, authenticity and how to use storytelling to create momentum. Connect with her on Linkedin, Facebook or Schedule a call here.