If I say the word “networking,” you might think that’s something business people use to generate more clients or make a sale. Maybe that doesn’t sound like something you have any interest in, or it even sounds scary to put yourself out there.
Of course, selling can be part of it, but not the only part. As far as I’m concerned, “networking” is a fancy word for building relationships.
To make it even simpler, “building relationships” is just about talking to people and making a connection with them. After the connection is made, you’ll see where it goes from there—friendship, business, or anything is possible.
Here’s the secret: We have networking opportunities around us all the time. The real question is are we any good at making a connection?
Recently, Jennifer and I were walking down Main Street and came across a table where two girls were selling Girl Scout cookies. We gave in to the temptation and bought a box of her favorite, Thin Mints, and my favorite, Samoas.
We started chatting with Kim, the mother of one of the girls. Kim made an off-handed comment that selling cookies is a great way to help kids improve their public speaking. Here was an opportunity to connect! I had just published a book on public speaking, so I mentioned it to her. Don’t get me wrong – this wasn’t an opportunity to sell. It was an opportunity to build commonality, not to shove a product in her face.
I soon learned that Kim works in a nearby police department. Jennifer and I looked at each other with some astonishment and amusement. Law enforcement is one of the audiences I speak and train for. Here was another opportunity to connect.
Kim told us a little about her role at the police department; I told her a little about my business. She asked some questions and I asked some questions. We were interested in each other’s worlds. A solid connection was developing.
By the end of the brief conversation, it was appropriate for me to give her my business card which she promised to give to her training sergeant at the department.
For me, it was an ideal networking situation: it was unexpected, it was a pleasant experience, and it presented an opportunity for both parties to serve each other – Kim could serve me by introducing me to the department and I could serve Kim by buying cookies and also by bringing a new training to her department. It also reminded me of the value of talking to people, even if no new business comes out of it for me. I love win-win situations.
So think about your opportunities to network. It might happen after church, at a ball game, at school, at the supermarket, or any other number of places. Networking can make life more pleasant, can bring people together, and bring you closer to getting what you want while you’re serving someone else.
This is a great example of how things can work out in business. But what I want you to realize is that I have friends all over the world—who do all kinds of amazing things—just because I’m open to talking to people. Networking is also about building a more interesting, fun life full of opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise had.
I hope this helps you consider networking in a new light. This is how we make new friends, learn information, and help each other.