Thursday, May 31, 2007
Are there BEST places and BEST people with whom to network?
Where is the BEST place to network? What groups do the BEST people attend?
I hear this a lot. Many people are hunting for an organization where only decision makers, who are ripe for the picking, attend - and happily await with checkbooks in hand. They only want to mingle with the BEST people (with proper job titles) who can lead them on the fast path to success.
I have two concerns with describing networking in the terms of finding the BEST places and the BEST people.
1. Networking is not hunting. The people you meet are not prey that you will devour. They are not Kobe Beef vs mutton. Networking is a state of mind. It is having a life philosophy of enjoying other people and trying to find ways to mutually aid each other along life's journey. Networking is creating "Ripples" (as Steve Harper, author of the great book The Ripple Effect, calls them!!!) that will go beyond yourself and positively effect the world. (Steve's book is one you should read if you are serious about better understanding how relationships will impact your future).
I used to work with a business executive who did not like to attend networking events because he did not feel the people he met were of a "high enough caliber" for him to associate. He viewed everyone by the title on their business card. If you were not a potential client or other VIP, you were nothing to him. He made up degrading nicknames for people he would encounter while networking. He felt he was doing someone a favor by showing up at local business functions, that his appearance somehow made the event better. Yet he was transparent to most of those who he encountered.
You should always try to discover the good parts of every event you attend. There is always something worthwhile in just showing up.
2. Subdividing people in the BEST and WORST is highly judgemental. It is what makes many people hate networking, they feel like it is high school all over again: The same people are always on the homecoming float while the rest of us look on from the stands. That is not networking...that is creating cliques!!!. It happens in the business world everyday, and it can undermine the value of creating powerful networks.
To really succeed at building a network of professional contacts you need to leave your judgemental self (and we all have one!) at the door. You need to welcome everyone to the table. Does that mean that you will like everyone you encounter, or that each person will become a mutually beneficial contact??? NOPE. It just means that you have to put yourself out there and be respectful to everyone.
I have found some of my greatest allies where I did not expect a connection. People whom others might disregard or ignore have shown to be true and loyal friends (in my business and my personal life). I have also been greatly disappointed by people whom I would have initially put into the "BEST" category. More than once I have been let down by someone in my network with whom I had expected a true bond. There are a lot of selfish "takers" who are disquised as "givers", and it is disappointing when you discover the truth...but that is just part of life.
Thus, there is no BEST place to network. You need to devote the time and the energy to put yourself into a variety of situations with an eclectic mix of people. There is no shortcuts or magic pills. Does this take a lot of time? Yep. I never said it was easy.
Also, there are no BEST people. Everyone is unique and you never know when you might encounter that one person who will bring you the next opportunity. Open your heart to everyone, do not pre-judge, and you will find some amazing souls that will impact your life.
Have A Great Day.
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Also, The ABC's of Networking is now available at Amazon.com. Purchase a copy today!