By Lindsey Tolino
Do you hate networking?
At the beginning of the year, I started networking more intentionally than ever before. There were aspects of it that I hated, but surprisingly, there were also parts I loved.
I hated feeling like I was just a prospect in someone’s eyes. But on the other hand, I loved getting to know others through open conversations. I hated the transactional aspects, but I loved the relational ones.
Transactional vs. Relational
Transactional networking is self-seeking. Those who network transactionally seek to know only the minimum necessary about a person in order to further their own business. They are primarily concerned with how to serve their own business.
Relational networking is cooperative and even selfless at times. Those who network relationally seek to get to know others in order to serve them better. They are primarily concerned with building mutual, cooperative relationships.
I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum when I’ve networked. At one intimate networking event, when I asked a gentleman what he did, he proceeded to talk for ten minutes. He spoke ad nauseam about his viewpoints and his work. It was difficult for others to speak because he filled the time. After the event, the gentleman reached out, asked for a meeting and implicitly offered his services. Though I turned him down, a few weeks later, I discovered I was on his email subscription, though I had never opted-in. He failed to get to know me, to know what would serve me best and to build a relationship with me. Ultimately, he was out to serve his business first and foremost.
On the other hand, I met my favorite client through relational networking. I actually met his friend first at a networking event and we bonded over our mutual love of cities and cigars. He then put me in contact with my now-client, who is a small, private cigar manufacturer. I’ve had cooperative, mutual relationships with both guys since.
Networking should feel more like making friends than sitting through a timeshare pitch. It should be invigorating and encouraging. If we hate networking, it’s because we’re doing it transactionally instead of relationally.
How To Fix It
To fix it, we need to start with ourselves. We need to trust that it’s better to give than receive. We need to let go of our self-seeking desires in order to esteem others. As we become more relational, we’ll attract more relational people. The more relational we are, the more we’ll further relational networking.
Oh, and in my experience, it’s really hard to convert a transactional networker when you’re at an event, so it may not be worth your time to try. Instead, you can graciously get their info and assure them you’ll reach out. You can then express how you felt and send them this post after the event.
Let’s not look out for our own interests when we network, let’s look to serve others instead. We’ll all enjoy networking immensely more if we do. And I have a feeling we’ll all be better off for it, too.
Image Info: Original photo by Sylwia Bartyzel.
About the Author: Lindsey Tolino comes alongside artisans, craftsman and people monetizing their passions to help them create healthy businesses. She shares her heart at ToBusinessOwners.com. Follow her on Twitter @LindseyTolino or connect with her on Google+.