I hate networking. Hate it.
Traditional networking is contrived, it’s skewed towards the established players in the ecosystem, and it is more about power and hierarchy than breadth. As a new player in a network, or someone who doesn’t quite fit the mould, the whole exercise can be frustrating and can hold back growth.
The problem lies in that staple of networking introductions – “What do you do?”
What do I do? Well, at the core of it I see things that I think can be amazing, and use broad skills to help develop them in to a product to be sold. When I say that to people at most networking functions the response I get is “Ok, but what is your job?”. Oh, I see – you didn’t actually mean what do I do, you mean what is my title, so you can determine my value to you.
There couldn’t be a much more outdated way of connecting in a professional environment. Managers talking to managers doesn’t solve problems. We need strategists, engineers, designers, policy makers, everyone EVERYONE, to be linking together to solve problems in ways we haven’t thought of yet. The way we work tomorrow (the way we should work today) needs to be a much flatter structure.
The biggest obstacle to this is the assumptions we make about jobs, roles and career paths. We assume we know what’s in a title, when really, in modern business environments we can have next to no idea. This is most clear when it comes to the people we are close to, our personal and long standing relationships.
You think you know what your friends do. In reality, for most people all you know what they studied, where they work, and what their job title is. When it comes to what they actually do each day, you probably don’t even go close. I’m not going to say that every one of your social connections could be (or should be) part of your professional network, but there are probably more than enough people you already know to solve the problems you have.
Work with people you like
The people you get on with well, who you understand, and who understand you, are likely the most productive people you can work with. You already have the background you need to work together and quickly align on problems and projects. A lot of people will tell you not to work with friends and family. I disagree, I work best with them – and the best people I work (or have worked) with have become great friends. You just need to be mature about it.
Learn who people are at work – not just what they do. You’ll find there is a lot you miss just by looking – what drives people, the things they’ve done and the things they want to do. Don’t just look for your own needs though.
Look for opportunities to link people you know together. Build a REAL network, with you at the centre.
Why would you focus on strangers, when you could build something stronger with those you know?