Taking the Work Out of Networking

Networking. The word itself even scares Chuck Norris. It often brings to mind images of slimy car salesman giving out business cards and people being inauthentic, simply seeing what you can do for them. Well here’s the deal: “Networking” is just talking to people. It really is that simple. The last time you sat down across from someone and you each sipped a cup of joe, you were networking.

The #1 fear I hear that people have around “networking” is that they don’t want to feel gross/inauthentic/schmoozy. What it really comes down to is people don’t want to put on their “networking mojo” in order to make connections. So don’t. No one else wants to experience you being smarmy and trying to get something.

Shift your paradigm. I believe that the next time you’re in an individual or a group “networking” setting, if you approach it committed to adding valueto the people there, you’ll be successful. My friend (and excellent career coach) Kristine Oller suggests playing “The Golden Nugget Game.” The next time you go to a networking event, go with the intention of giving one golden nugget and receiving one golden nugget. A golden nugget could be a book recommendation, job opportunity, or even a recipe for a gnarly quiche.

It really is about your paradigm—your come from. Rather than being focused on what you can “get,” be that reason for someone else. Give, give, give. Add value to someone’s life and you’ll be shockedat what the universe brings you in return.

Play to your strengths. I really like meeting new people. One of my top Strengths Finder strengths is WOO, or Winning Over Others. I’m naturally adept at going into a large group of strangers and making new friends. It energizes me. But here’s the thing, you don’t need to be like me to get maximum value out of networking. You just need to care about other people. (You do care about other people, right?)

Networking (conversing with other humans), though, doesn’t have to look a certain way, and doesn’t only happen in large group settings. In fact, any time two or more people are within earshot of each other, that could be considered networking. Play to your strengths. If you’re great at one-on-one conversation then focus on taking people to coffee. Then, rather than worry about how they can help you, spend the conversation focused on how you can support them. 

The next time you hear the word “networking” and get a yucky taste in your mouth, replace the word “networking” with “talking to people.” You (hopefully) have done that once or twice in your life, and as an actor it’s what you’ve trained for years to be an expert at: communicating. And if all else fails, remember your ABG’s: Always. Be. Giving.

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