In the world of networking, more often than not, I am incredibly supportive of boldness in one’s approach in engaging someone in conversation. So frequently, people I coach have such a hard time with networking effectively that even if they make a misstep, I would rather encourage the effort, and fine tune their approach in the future. Of course, sometime there is an approach someone takes that I can’t help but try to discourage at all costs.
Recently I was at SXSW, my favorite networking event of the year, and was approached by a person who within a couple of minutes of meeting me and finding out I was a lawyer, proceeded to encourage me, rather aggressively, to encourage my clients to use his company’s services. This is, of course, not a new phenomenon. It happens every once in a while that someone uses a networking moment to bypass the relationship building and go straight to trying to get something for themself.
Don’t get me wrong, networking is not just about making friends. This blog is dedicated to helping people build relationships that will lead to successful business and career building. That said, I find people are more willing to go to bat for you if they like you and know you care about them for reasons other than just lining your pockets. Building a network of people who you like and trust and like and trust you in return can pay huge dividends, but no one likes to feel taken advantage of. As an example, look at the dictionary definition difference between networking and schmoozing, a term frequently seen as having a slightly negative connotation.
Networking: The cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.
Schmoozing: Talking with someone in a friendly way often in order to get some advantage for yourself.
Notice the slight difference? Many people will interchange networking with schmoozing. I am not a fan. While we can all reap benefits by creating and fostering relationships, the goal of speaking with someone should not be first and foremost to find an advantage for yourself. If that distinction does not help, keep this in mind. People love helping their friends. Go make a friend.