A lot of people have told me I’m good at networking, even though the term makes me feel awkward sometimes. Here’s how I approach it, and how it may help you build more intentional relationships in your life.
When I approach or am introduced to people in professional settings, I try to gear most of my focus towards getting to know the person and their path. I don’t like focusing on the strategy and “chess moves” that can come with building certain connections. It works for some people, but I find it may take away from actually getting to know someone. I'm not saying you can't consider the strategy, I just believe it shouldn't be the focal point in getting to know someone professionally.
There are many people doing great things out there. And as much as you can acknowledge the things they do, it’s important to acknowledge who they are behind it all. Relationships can be built more organically and sustainably that way, because you’re not focused on the “chess moves” behind maintaining connections (and many of us can sense when we feel we are being used).
I’m not saying to ask someone about their childhood bully in the first conversation, but to ask them about the values and experiences that have guided their careers (while reading the room and respecting everything they are or aren’t comfortable sharing). To take it a step further, I’m not just saying to ask value-oriented questions. You have to care too. Many people can sense when you ask the “right” questions but don’t really care.
This mindset has brought several opportunities to my life. Scholarships, job opportunities, business opportunities, and amazing partnerships. And at the root of it, I was just having conversations with people about their values, interests and experiences from a place of genuine interest. There is a lot of nuance to this, but I want to encourage you to view networking as less of a “chessboard” to navigate. When you view networking as genuine relationship building, it may counterintuitively position you to build the network you're looking to expand.
If you want to learn more about my insights or how I could bring knowledge directly to you or your organization as a speaker, feel free to explore my website or connect with me on LinkedIn!
This photo was taken while I spoke at an event for the Black Talent Initiative last year. Check out their website to learn more about the important work they do to support the career development of Black workers globally!