Professional networking 2.0 – sharing what matters most even when nobody listens

I remember going to a Christmas party once with a dear friend and colleague, and when we entered the restaurant where the party was she quietly mentioned she really wasn’t in the mood to speak to all those people tonight. Instead of “networking” we sat in a quiet corner, enjoyed the people watching, the food and a drink or two.

In building my career and businesses, I often didn’t feel like networking at all. That’s partially because I used to be a shy person who didn’t say much at all. The other part is because networking often felt meaningless to me. The conversation topics are picked from the shallow end of the pool, where people pretend to be all sorts of things they aren’t, as part of their involvement in corporate politics at some level. If you don’t play ball at the same management level, the conversation is merely based on the difference in employee status.

Having the problems with authority that I have, especially in corporate life, that kind of social interaction never worked well for me. I believe networking should be based on sharing ideas and having a meaningful conversation with your peers, your boss, clients, or the CEO. Networking is the time when status stays behind, and people come off their pedestals and out of their corporate ivory towers to connect as equals. Someone considered smoking to be the best possible networking event, since having a smoke outside by the loading dock is probably the only place where you can have a quick conversation with the CEO. I think that’s a pretty unhealthy habit, both physically speaking, as well as from an organizational health perspective. If the CEO is that far removed from the company how can he or she be in charge of it and make effective decisions?

Networking, within the company with management and peers alike, as well as with other companies or even competitors, should be based on being of service to one another. Listen to understand what your conversation partner has to say, instead of jumping in to respond too quickly. Instead of competing for business or your fifteen minutes of fame with the “boss”, see how you can help each other out.

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