When I first moved to Seattle, I was determined to get involved in networking. After four years in a small town in New Mexico, suddenly I had opportunities to meet prospects face to face.
I loved meeting new people. And connections began to happen. But at first I couldn’t help wondering, “Will all this activity be productive?”
Then last week I heard a talk by Zita Gustin. She gave us an exercise that you can try in your own group.
First we shared with a fellow participant the answers to four work related questions.
Then we answered a more fun set of questions. Where are you from? What television programs do you watch? What’s a good business book you’ve read lately?
As Zita pointed out, we were all far more animated in the second exercise. It was fun and we discovered points of connection we never anticipated. Okay, you might have suspected some of mine:
“I’m from Snohomish.”
”That’s where my dog is from! Her first owners found her in the SPCA up there.”
Networking is an investment of time (and of course money and energy). Most people attend a meeting or two and then give up, saying, “Nothing happened.”
But after weeks, months and years, and sometimes volunteering for committees, you begin to reap the real rewards. Over time, I’ve been greeted warmly in groups where I first felt unwelcome and out of place.
Psychologist Stanley Milgram (known for his infamous obedience experiments) studied the way familiarity leads to liking. When you see the same people over and over – even when you wait at the same bus stop — you develop positive feelings for them.
Of course, I believe some networking events and professional groups are more valuable than others.
Some groups have invisible barriers that keep new members at a distance.
In a few dog-eat-dog fields, networking won’t be productive. In some locations, you won’t have opportunities to network productively.
When I work with clients, we discuss targeted networking strategies that will most likely lead to success.
But generally, if you’re ready to make a change, go hang around with some people who are doing what you would like to do. Just have fun with them and stop if you don’t. And often the best connections get made in the most unlikely places…even just because, “We both have dogs.”