Networking: How Building Relationships for the Right Reasons Can Impact Your Life

28 Jun

I have to admit, even the word networking makes me tense up.  Before jumping in a career that required need for networking, I found it easy to talk to anyone and everyone for the sake or building positive and interesting relationships.  I navigated life with the idea that each person can offer me something from which I can learn, so I never wanted to miss an opportunity.  I most certainly was never thinking while talking to people, “how can they help me”.  In moving into the industry I’m in currently, I’ve heard people say you need to network for a purpose.  Better yet, I’ve seen people outwardly force themselves in front of others in a disingenuous way.  “I’ll never be that girl”, I thought to myself.  I worried that might hinder my ability to succeed.

In the beginning of my dabbling in the modeling, writing and styling industry I certainly witnessed many attempts at disingenuous networking.  I have the good fortune of working in-front of the camera at times, but unlike many talents I spend a great deal of time behind the camera as well.  You can only imagine some of the things I’ve heard and seen.  One of my first experiences in this industry landed me at a conference where the need to network weighed heavily on me.  Being the “look at me girl” was a huge challenge for me.  I questioned my ability to pursue a career and really was at a loss for the first time.

I’ve since developed some strong philosophies on networking that I am sticking with.  For better or worse, they suit me.  I honestly believe that you should never miss an opportunity to connect.  I think people can teach you something.  In some way every person can help you.  Better yet, you can help them…and that’s point # 1.

Ways to network effectively and still feel good about yourself:

1) Help other people.  Let’s face it, this feels good.  You have skills and abilities.  How can you use them to help others?  Earning trust doesn’t operate by mutual exchange of favors or opportunities.  It happens by truly seeing what good you can do and offering it.  Furthermore, it shouldn’t be limited to “certain” people.  While you can’t help everyone, you can impact everyone.  Find ways to help others succeed.  People appreciate this.  The work karma exists for a reason.

2) Build relationships before you need them.  A lot of people decide to start building relationships when they are trying to achieve a goal or when they are in need.  Wrong!  Build the foundation now.  You can spend years getting to know people.  They might offer you inspiration, you might meet friends, you can learn from other’s work.  Don’t ask for anything, just build for the sake of having meaningful relationships.  If you do this, and at some point you need something, people will know you.  They will understand what you are about.  Think about it.  If someone called you for help and you had never met them, are you inclined to do so?  Probably not.  However, if it’s someone who over time has gotten to know you, gone out of their way for you, offered you assistance in various way, then what would you say?  I think you get the point here.

3) Forget about you.  People don’t want to talk to people who talk about themselves all the time.  I know this is a tough one.  It is for me.  Not because I’m self consumed but because I just get going and am long-winded.  My friend likes to say he know’s how to “handle” my energy.  I do try to remember though that I really want to know others because that’s where I experience growth.  I listen without forming an immediate response or opinion.  I ask questions and I make space for learning.  I also like reading things others do, be it blogs, their writing, their posts on facebook.  Whatever it is.  I sometimes attend events others host or are involved in to show my support.  I try to ask questions and listen to the responses.  I also try to follow-up to check on people.  It’s always nice to hear of others successes.

4) People have lives outside of work. They have families, they have passions, they have hobbies and interests.  Finding ways to connect on these levels seem to help build relationships.  People don’t always want to be seen as just one thing.  The same goes for you.  Share something personal about yourself.  People want to works with humans, who have real stories.  Share that side of you and connect with others on that level.

5) Never be the person in the room that doesn’t pay attention.  In my opinion, there is nothing worse than talking to someone who you feel is looking around the room for who they want to meet. Even if it’s just for minute, give someone your full attention.  Don’t think when having conversations how will this help me.  That’s just wrong.  You devalue the person and their worth.  Worse yet, you devalue yourself.  Think about meeting people for the sake of growing and expanding.  You really never know when meeting others the impact they might have on your life.  Be sincere.  Be genuine. Be real.

Networking is a challenge, but try not to look at it as something you need to do.  Just try being you.  Don’t think as much about who you get in front of, who you connect with, who knows you.  Just try your best to build meaningful relationships with people.  Talk to everyone.  Sometimes people get in the mindset of “I need to meet so-and-so” and forget that person’s best friend might be the individual you just spent an hour ignoring.  Not the best move was it?

Best of luck in your career growth, and may you never miss a moment to connect.

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