Networking 101 - Avoid Assumptions and Embrace Discomfort

Kara O'Malley
By: Kara O'Malley
Reading Time: 3 minutes

"In the end, it's not just about who you know but who you help and who helps you." - Reid Hoffman

Networking is often seen as a daunting task, conjuring images of stuffy, awkward events where business cards are exchanged like currency. However, it doesn't have to be this way. Networking is about cultivating relationships within your community and finding ways to connect and help each other. In a recent SquadU, we debunked common networking myths and discussed practical tips to make networking authentic, enjoyable, and productive.

Networking Myths Debunked

Myth 1: Networking Only Happens at Networking Events

Wrong! Networking can happen anytime and anywhere. From community gatherings to standing in line at Chipotle, you have opportunities to connect with others. Don't limit yourself to formal events.

Myth 2: Networking is Awkward, Stuffy, Boring, and Not for You

Wrong again! Networking can be fun and rewarding if you approach it with the right mindset. Embrace discomfort as a growth opportunity and focus on building genuine connections.

Myth 3: It's a Business Card Collecting Contest

Nope! Quality trumps quantity in networking. Focus on cultivating meaningful connections rather than collecting business cards. Imagine the growth of your network if you made just one quality connection each month.

Myth 4: It's Only for Salespeople or Business Development

WRONG-OOO! Networking is for everyone, regardless of your job title. It's about finding like-minded connections to collaborate and help one another professionally and personally.

Myth 5: It's Only About Meeting Strangers

Nope! Networking can involve tapping into your existing friends and family circle, sharing your passions, and discovering common interests.

Introducing Yourself Authentically

When introducing yourself, consider crafting a one-sentence job description that focuses on outcomes and results rather than listing services. Also, share what drives you—the "why" behind what you do.

Conversation Starters

People love talking about what matters to them. When initiating a conversation, consider FORD:

  • F: Family
  • O: Occupation
  • R: Recreation
  • D: Dreams

Here are some conversation starters:

  • What brings you to this event/meeting/conference? Breaking the ice is always a good start.
  • What do you do? A classic question that opens the door to discussions about careers.
  • What sparked your interest in your field/industry? Show genuine interest in their career journey.
  • What projects or initiatives are you currently working on? Allows them to share their recent work.
  • How do you stay up-to-date with industry trends? Demonstrates an interest in continuous learning.
  • What do you enjoy most about your work? People love sharing their passions.
  • Are there any specific challenges you're facing in your industry/job? Encourage discussion about pain points or areas where they need support.

Leaning on a Strong Brand

Incorporate your organization's mission into your introduction. For example, I use the Marketing Squad’s mission statement when I’m meeting new people: "The Marketing Squad exists to partner with our clients to tell their story and grow their business. We fulfill our mission through a disciplined mastery of digital marketing tactics, a commitment to inbound marketing methodologies, and a passion to serve well."

Does your business need help creating a mission statement or core values. Schedule a coffee connect to learn how the Squad can help you.

Following Up

One of the biggest mistakes in networking is failing to follow up. Within 24 hours of an introduction, send an email, text, or make a call. Mention any collaboration opportunities or ways you can help each other. Also, connect on LinkedIn to maintain the connection.

Tips for Successful Networking

  • Join groups or associations aligned with your genuine interests.
  • Remember FORD—people love talking about what matters to them.
  • Embrace discomfort as it gets easier with practice.
  • Ask for recommendations for groups or events from people who share your interests.

Networking is all about building relationships, connecting with others authentically, and helping one another succeed. By dispelling common networking myths and following these practical tips, you can make networking a rewarding and enjoyable part of your personal and professional life. So, get out there, make connections, and watch your network grow!

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