Most people seem to hate the idea of networking. It’s got a sleazy connotation to it. People think that it is all about “selling themselves”, when really it is about helping others. That’s it. No pressure to schmooze. Just be friendly, polite and helpful. These are all things we were taught in kindergarten, although obviously not all of us learned it (see the difference between training and learning?)
These people didn’t learn it…
Recently I was at a conference and the person I was talking to was approached by someone she knew and hadn’t seen this person for awhile (in fact, she had a hard time remembering him). He proceeded to talk to her for a few minutes, then thrust a card at her and then one at me and asked for one in return. Later on, I received an email from him, addressed to my friend, not me, with a generic sounding message. It did not make me want to keep connected to this person.
I tried to sit at tables of complete strangers to increase the number of people I would meet and not hang out with the folks I already knew. I sat at one table and not one person welcomed me to the table or introduced themselves and when I initiated an introduction, they shook my hand and said “hello”, but two out of the six people didn’t even tell me their names. That’s not just bad networking, it’s rude!
Several of the sessions I attended were in a lecture theatre. I sat near the front and when people approached the row, they tended to sit with a few seats in between. I made some folks sit right next to me and other times I sat right beside someone else. Why do people opt to sit by themselves when they are at a conference?
I noticed that during the breaks, at least half of the people were absorbed in their handhelds (crackberries, phones, etc) and not circulating. What kinds of life and death emergencies are we dealing with in HR that we can’t take 2 days away from the office to meet others. Heck, you might meet a new client or potential employee or partner.
If you are put off by networking, or reading the above stories made you blush with recognition, go and grab this book, or call my friend Judy to talk about a training session. She will teach you how to network the right way, so you don’t feel like a used-car salesman, but like yourself, only more connected.