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"Networking" doesn't mean business

Trying to get people together to network with fellow colleagues in intimate, engaging, and fun settings sounds pretty easy. The concept of a post-pandemic world, and people “wanting” to get back out face-to-face seems effortless to fill a table when planning an event. Hosting a conference after 2 years and having at capacity attendance seems achievable, especially with how much the industry and our world is changing. Conferences should be at least a place to get a pulse on what’s occurring in the industry as well as what technologies are on the horizon to elevate industries.

This concept of just because people weren’t networking for the past 2 years, it makes for people WANTING to network that much easier. So invites should be accepted. Passes should be sold out. Every event will be buzzing. Getting lunches would be easier than ever.

This is wrong.

The challenge we are facing is that people are comfortable creatures. We don’t like it when the AC is too low, or the heat is a degree to high. We don’t like attending a wedding if there is mass before. We don’t like waiting on a tarmac an extra 30 minutes after traveling 700 miles in just over an hour. We like comfort.

Nothing is more comfortable than pajamas. Nothing is more comfortable than your home. Combine those two comfort levels and stretch it over a period of 2 years, you’ve created a comfortable cocoon. If you’ve survived this long in your role and speak to those you knew before the pandemic then you should be good. There is no need to venture out, put on pants, do the chummy hello’s, and pass out business cards. After all, you’ve navigated and survived long enough without having to. The pandemic is over, so it’s back to business as usual, and networking although a necessity, it takes a back seat to work and home responsibilities as well as personal interests.

The world just took a two-year sabbatical and now that it’s back, so are you. But what was exposed during the pandemic was the need for connection. The need for networks and knowing people. Never have we been told to stay home isolated, with so much technology to connect us. Yes, people remained “connected” during these times, but what levels were new connections made, or existing ones made deeper? I’ve often heard: if you didn’t have a network before covid, it sure is hard as hell to develop one during covid.

I couldn’t agree more, but with the world shifting and shaking- things being reset and things propelling forward at unprecedented speeds (through technology, paradigm shifts, the “new norm”, etc.), the need and necessity to expand and deepen your network couldn’t be more important.

March 2020 we did not see many things in our world that are headlines today. Bitcoin was discussed, certainly not making true headlines, ESG was just popping up something which whole departments are being created for, NFT’s wasn’t a talking point, casing didn’t command the prices they do now, and supply chain issues weren’t a problem, Parsley existed, etc. But as our world evolved, and things off the radar took center stage, so did our industry and relationships. People grew for the better, people were depressed, people got divorced, people were let go, people had children, people started their own ventures, people moved out of the industry, and people came into the industry.

With all the changes occurring in the world, companies popping up, companies being rolled together, companies being sold/closed it certainly makes your network not as stable as you thought, because plain and simple: the world isn’t stable. This instability affected everyone and continues to do so. In a new world, it’s time to get out there and learn about it, and the way to do that isn’t through your computer or phone, it’s sitting with people and talking.

In a world where it is more difficult to connect, more comfortable than ever at the house, and people not taking meetings. The necessity to build and grow your network couldn’t be more apparent than it is now. Problem is, people view networking as a transactional exchange between two people. A buyer and a seller. Someone who can benefit from meeting others, and those to have some personal gain. So in networking events, people’s mindset is either I am the hunter or I am the target.

So either you are the shark in the water, or you are the chum.

This is completely wrong. The initial goal of networking should never be about transactions, or purely business-focused. It should be enjoyable and enriching. It’s some of the oldest relationships where I had no expectation or even goal of meeting someone that has led to the most personal and professional fruitful relationships in my life. Networking should truly be the WANT to meet someone new, to learn about them, find common interests that bond you, and develop genuine relationships.

The “business” always comes, but it will never get to the point where it’s maximally beneficial for everyone unless the relationship is there, and relationships are built off of trust.

Networking shouldn’t be viewed as a serious business, but a fun exchange with people. A way to connect with others in a world where the norm is to not be connected, yet rely on connections for help and support. A shoot the shit convo with someone and getting below the surface (even a little bit) is networking. Having a conversation with someone at the airport waiting for a flight is networking. Asking how someone cooks steaks at the house in networking. Learning which sports their children play is networking.

Networking is connecting with people. The greater we are connected the more we can help others (and ourselves). Begin to get out of your comfort zone (and jammies) and begin to meet people…you never know where it may go, or the friends you make on the way.

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