How to move from contact to connection to relationship.
Making Friends While Shopping
I hate to admit this publicly, but last Friday, I was one of those crazy Americans standing in line at the crack of dawn hoping to get a great bargain. (In the U.S., stores give big discounts the Friday after Thanksgiving and some open as early as 4 a.m.)
While I was waiting for the store to open, I decided to talk with the guy in front of me. (If you’re a regular listener, you already know I learned this habit from my mother). Anyway, Joe and I had almost an hour before the store opened, so we had plenty of time to get to know each other.
He told me about the new floors he just installed, he told me about his wife and kids, and he even shared with me the story of his career. I reciprocated by telling him about my family, my work, and of course, about this podcast. Joe was an interesting guy and I really enjoyed our conversation.
At the end, he surprised me by asking me to send him a quote for some training for his team. But, really, after thinking about it, I shouldn’t have been surprised.
I’d made a connection. I was “networking.”
That word, ”networking” used to be a dirty word for me. I hated going to events to “network.” I viewed it as “wasting time,” I felt like I was forcing myself to make useless small talk with strangers. Really, that’s honestly the way I felt and as you might suspect, I didn’t have much success with my networking.
I just didn’t get it.
Eventually, though, I finally realized that networking wasn’t about attending events or about fake small talk. I was looking at it all wrong.
Networking is really just a process. A process that starts with an initial contact, which leads to a connection, which can then lead to a relationship. Networking should be viewed as a process of building relationships that get incorporated into the fabric of life -- both your professional and personal life.
Networking is about being genuine, not fake. It’s how we look for a job, it’s how we find prospects, it’s how we engage our existing customers, and it’s how we stay in touch with our friends and family.
Networking in a Troubled Economic Environment
And in these economically troubled times, my professional and personal relationships are even more important. Opportunities come from people. And when opportunities are limited, you need to have a strong, thriving network to go to so that you can find and take advantage of those opportunities.
People want to work with people they know and trust. Especially in difficult economic times, if you have a limited network, your ability to discover opportunities is severely diminished.