Let me tell you about how I fell in love with networking.
When you hear the word “networking,” do you imagine a room full of people exchanging business cards over drinks, making small talk, and magically emerging with new jobs and clients?
I did. And, I hated the idea of purely transactional relationships. Running around to events and sending emails to introduce myself purely to “get ahead” and get first dibs on jobs that may (or may not) come up felt like a numbers game. No, thank you. Even though I could do limited engagements playing an extravert on television, you’ll often find me curled up on my couch at the end of the day, enjoying a good book.
We Americans love success stories about an intrepid individual overcoming all odds. In our strongly individualistic culture, we soak in the expectation that each of us is running our own personal marathon to achieve professional success.
What doesn’t make it in to the legacy stories about people with great accomplishments: the relationships that helped to make those accomplishments possible.
Transactional networking feels like grabbing what you need for your personal marathon from other people. A pair of running shoes, a FitBit, water, snacks at the finish line.
I fell in love with networking when it stopped being “networking”, and it turned into building relationships with people who want to run a marathon together.
Once, I went for coffee with a presenter at a workshop who talked about a topic that intrigued me. Eighteen months later, we had become friends and she recommended me for a consulting job in her company. I joined the company, worked with incredible clients, and turned my passion for helping clients to meet their goals into a consulting practice. Fast-forward to today, and my practice has evolved into my business, Kosmenko & Co.
That connection, and dozens of others, sparked from a genuine conversation between two people with a shared interest. Building a valuable professional network means fostering mutually-beneficial relationships that help each person to move closer to their goals. What each person in the relationship gains could be different: industry insight, job and client leads, career advice, the satisfaction of mentoring, support to weather professional challenges, or simply good conversation.
These days, I refer to my favorite local coffee shop as “my office,” and joke that I do coffee meetings professionally. My business is all about helping people and organizations to turn their best intentions into real action. I love, love, love that I’m always meeting new people and learning from them. I get to give back to people in my network by sharing ideas, advice, and introductions, while many of my connections have evolved into my informal advisors and collaborators.
From time to time, my office conversations turn to networking, and I mentor other professionals on strengthening their own networks. My advice: Craft a strategy to meet the right people that are the right connections for you. Get clear on your action plan. Practice, practice, practice your communication and confidence-boosters. It takes time and we all have days when it feels it’s just not working.Who are you having coffee with next?
Are you ready to create a networking approach that works for you? Kosmenko & Co. offers a fantastic, fun workshop that will walk you through building your strategy and overcoming the most common networking fears and mistakes.
- Posted by Kimberly Kosmenko