Meeting people is already a challenge, and the misconceptions about networking make it even more difficult. Here are the most common ones:
a. It happens in a fixed environment
b. It requires small talk and forced smiles
c. I have nothing to contribute to someone
Let us address each one.
MYTH: It happens in a fixed environment
TRUTH: Networking can happen anywhere
Real networking can happen anywhere (on the subway, at the gym, even on the streets etc.) Even though there are common social settings where it takes place (conferences, office happy hours etc.), when it comes down to it, networking isn’t limited to these prescriptive environments since it’s about talking to people and making a genuine connection. Broaden your perspective and realize that every day offers opportunities to meet and connect with someone. That lady who was smiling with you during yoga? How about starting a conversation with her after class? The group of students discussing a book you’ve read at the library? Maybe you can contribute your thoughts too? Make the most out of the random encounter.
MYTH: It requires small talk and forced smiles
TRUTH: Successful networking is based on authenticity
Chances are, if your interaction with someone involves forced smiles and small talk, you will not connect on a deep level. True networking is about being yourself when talking to someone and building on potential shared interests. Sure, there may be some uncomfortable moments at the beginning, but those will quickly give way to frank conversations where you will get to know each other. If you see networking as just another item on your to-do list, an ordeal where you have to put on a show, you can probably save yourself some time and just go where you feel comfortable. Ultimately, the relationships you will go on to develop will be based on the level of authenticity you choose to share.
MYTH: I have nothing of value to give to someone
TRUTH: You’d be surprised the many ways in which you can help someone
Your favorite author is coming to your city and needs help promoting the event? Spread the word at your local coffee shop, on your social networks, and get your friends to tag along. If you successfully bring more people to the event, that is one way you will have added value to their lives. Never underestimate how much you can contribute to a relationship. Networking isn’t a one-way street. Both parties have something to bring to the table and are sharing it with each other. So the next time you’re tempted to not even give a conversation with someone you admire a shot, do it. Whether you tell them something they didn’t know or help them solve a problem, you have the potential to add value to someone’s life in many different ways.