Networking For People Who Hate Networking Part 1 – Work Life

Do you hate networking? Does it feel slimy to you? I’m the same. I love making new friends and meeting interesting people, but I hate approaching people only to see how they can help me.

Luckily, Adam Grant, an organisational psychologist, has some great advice for this very situation, in his Podcast: Work Life with Adam Grant.

Become the Person People Want to Meet

If you have nothing to offer, people won’t want anything from you, so they won’t want to talk to you. Everyone wants to know what they get out of every conversation. It’s sad but it’s true. I imagine you’re only reading this because you want to know some networking tips, right?

If you build expertise in a subject, then anyone interested in that subject will be interested in what you have to say. Grant says this is just human nature.

If you want to know what it’s like to live in France, you ask your friend who lived in France for a year. They are someone you see as an expert on living in France.

So if you master a skill or become an expert on a topic, people who know this will seek your opinions and recommend you to others, so your network builds without you doing any slimy self-promotion.

Grant cites a study in this episode where the radiologists in a hospital that were the most knowledgeable in radiology made more friends in the first 9 months of working at a new hospital and went on to have better job roles than their less expert peers.

The second part seems obvious, but think of your workplace, I bet you have or have had terrible managers who got promoted for being an expert in their previous job. Sadly, being a subject matter expert doesn’t make you a great manager though.

What Kinds of Connections do People Make?

Grant describes 2 levels of connection:

  • Low Level: These tend to be transactional in nature. You do something for me, I’ll do something for you. You both get something, but a meaningful friendship doesn’t form.
  • Deep: You will help this person, even if you get nothing in return because you either care about them or share some core values with them. Maybe they want to save the turtles, you also want to save the turtles, so you are happy to help them. Or maybe they’re your mum and you would do anything for her.

I’m at a Networking Event, What Do I Do?

Networking events sound intimidating. Imagine a bunch of suits grinning, boasting about where they summer and handing out pristine business cards. Sounds hideous.

In reality, this does not have to be the case. Just approach the event as a way to meet some interesting people in your field or a field you want to be a part of. Simple.

Quality Over Quantity

You are better off aiming to have 1 or 2 quality conversations. People don’t remember the person who handed them a business card then disappeared the rest of the night.

People do remember the amazing story they heard about your travels through Iceland or the new system you started at work that saved thousands of pounds in admin time.

Be a “mini-helper”

“So what do you do?”. This is the most boring question. You will probably bore yourself by the end of the night if you keep asking it. Instead, ask what problems they are trying to solve.

If you can solve it in 5 minutes, you have made a meaningful connection at next to no trouble to yourself.

If you can’t help, maybe you know someone who can. The value you added then, is the introduction. Now you have made 2 people happy, the person who’s problem will be solved and the person in your network who you just helped meet a new connection.

Give More Than You Take

Grant actually has a whole book about this topic, I highly recommend it and may even do a post about it one day.

Focus on what you can give to other people.

Don’t match them.

Don’t take too much.

The more you give, the more people will value you. The trick is to actually care, people can sense insincerity. So don’t fake it if you don’t care, just don’t do that thing. Do something you do care about instead.

Do you hate networking? Have any of these tips made it seem less horrible? Let me know in the comments below.

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