One thing that you hear early and often when you are trying to build a business or a career in industry is to network. I’ve learned in the short time I have been doing this that I suck at networking. I get very awkward when I go to an event or when I am in a situation specifically for that purpose.
Fortunately for me, I have come to learn that there is no such thing as good or bad networking the only requirement is that you fully show up at the table. Fully showing up means that you have honest conversations with the people you are interacting with. Conversations with no artifice that aren’t manipulated specifically to meet your own needs.
Here are the rules that I have come up with to make networking more comfortable for me:
- Be as you are: I used to think that networking was like a job interview i.e. you are trying to sell yourself as the best person for the job. The truth is you just need to show up and be who you already are.
- Be honest about your successes: People like to surround themselves with successful people, so if you have been successful at something don’t be afraid to talk about it. Just make sure that it suits the context of the conversations that are going on.
- Be honest about your problems: You never know if the person you are talking to has experience in the domain that might be a solution to your problems, so be honest about them. Again don’t forget to consider the context.
To illustrate, I spent an evening with my cousin and her friend who happens to work for a media company. We started talking about some of the challenges (be honest about your problems) that I’ve been having along the way (you will be hearing about those soon) and it turned out that his experience might be just what I need to get me through the little patch of confusion that I have hit recently.
One last note, a lot of entrepreneurs are afraid to share their ideas because they believe that the person listening might execute on them. It is a valid fear, but at the risk of sounding naïve I will point out that no one has the ability to execute your idea exactly how you will. So except you know that the person you are conversing with is already executing in your domain, set the fear aside and engage. You never know what will come of it.