Don’t Be a Networking Me-Monster

Uncategorized Posted Mar 17, 2015 by chenpr

For last month’s Tip Sheet I wrote about my approach to professional networking, and that when I’m out pressing the flesh I try to find and cultivate relationships with people I think I’ll like. If I’m at an event with a thousand other folks and walk away having hit it off with one person that I think I’d enjoy sharing a drink with, that’s a good result. Sometimes we’re forced by necessity to do business with people with whom we don’t mesh, but common business interests and simple professionalism require that such differences be put aside in order to meet a goal. When I have a choice, however, I’d rather work with people whose company I find enjoyable.
The typical networking environment requires that you make quick judgments about the people you meet. There’s nothing worse than getting cornered by a pushy me-monster who’s only interested in describing—in painful detail—how lucky you are to have the pleasure of their company. No one wants to run into that guy and most people don’t want to be that guy.

Early on in my professional life I ran into so many of the overbearing, pushy types that I felt I didn’t belong. That wasn’t me. I must be out of my league. But gradually I learned that networking success doesn’t mean being obnoxious; to the contrary, the best networkers I’ve known are understated, humble and generous with their time and attention. That doesn’t mean they can’t be blessed with an outsized personality, but that’s not the same as an over-inflated ego.
The best networkers know that success requires building a network of complementary associates and that to do so requires offering their talents in trade. By seeking first to give of themselves the karmic forces of the business universe will repay them in time.

Author Elizabeth Segran recently wrote an article for Fast Company that examines this dynamic. Segran profiles the experience of consultant Selena Soo who makes the important point that when you enter into a networking milieu with an objective to find ways to help others, you will rarely be disappointed. Everyone has needs, and if you are the one who is able to meet a need, you have an edge over everyone else in the room there to toot their own horn.

When I was just starting out as a writer I was told to, “show, don’t tell.” I wish someone had given me the same advice as a networker earlier in my career.