Networking Tips: How To Build a Network That Matters
Your job description doesn't cover everything you contribute at work.
Your sales numbers don't encapsulate your potential.
Where you work doesn't say everything about who you are.
And your job title doesn't tell the story of your life's work.
But these are some of the metrics we often use to quickly judge someone else's potential power or value to us.
This is broken for one simple reason:
everyone is worth knowing.
Power-Oriented "Networking" Asks Us To Forget This
I used to work in the Hollywood film industry. LA is a place where a great majority of people mentally assign you value based on your connections, where you work, who you get sandwiches for, and what insider scoops you have.
It’s a fast-paced machine that teaches you to treat people well only if you think they can do something for you, and to discontinue that support when they lose their perceived usefulness. Because networking is about people you can use to your career advantage, right?
Most of us are familiar with this mentality no matter where we’ve worked. It’s traditionally associated with networking, job-seeking, and more. But this thinking is ineffective, unhelpful, and I'd say potentially poisonous to your career.
Only looking at someone for their surface “success” value teaches you to treat people as disposable, to make snap judgments about them, and to objectify them as your means to an end.
And here's why this method of building your network backfires:
- When you make snap judgments, you can often be wrong.
- When you objectify someone, they usually can tell. As a result, they doubt your sincerity and don’t trust you.
- When you seek to use someone as merely a connection, you by definition aren’t beginning to build a relationship with them, so you never actually connect.
So How Do You Build a Network That Matters?
It is incredibly valuable to have a network / community of people you can rely on - especially in your professional life. The trick is to build it smartly, for the right reasons, in a sincere way.
That’s why I want you to start practicing the mentality of “everyone is worth knowing.”
Here's something I always think about when it comes to this:
It was April 2010. I’d just started in my first non-assistant job at a major film studio on a brand-new, high-profile team. There were so many powerful people to meet and get-to-know.
However, one of the first lunches I ever set for myself was with a career assistant, someone who was not seeking the next big promotion or any kind of "power player."
Tracey is an Executive Assistant with 20+ years at the company. At this point in time, she had just finished supporting two of my new bosses. I’ll never forget our first lunch together. Tracey was so welcoming, helpful, encouraging, and real about the challenges I would be facing. It was the beginning of a very special friendship.
Over the four years I was at the studio, Tracey give me great insights into my role and managers and she also became a wonderful confidante and cheerleader. I tried to be that for her as well in my many trips down the hall to exchange jokes and friendly smiles on a tough day at work. She was a resource, a sounding board, and more importantly than anything - an incredible friend. When I visited LA for the first time since moving, she was one of the very few people I made sure I set a lunch with - even before VP's and Executive Directors.
And I’m incredibly grateful for Tracey. She's been a sharp, enthusiastic champion on so many things for me. She continues to be a very vocal supporter of everything I’ve done in my career, including this newsletter, and her support has only grown long after I left the role that first connected us.
Someone on the hunt for success may have never considered asking for that first lunch or have sought to get to know Tracey as a whole person. If I'd had those single-minded goggles on, I would have missed quite the friend and an amazingly valuable member of my community.
So, take a look around. Is there someone you’re overlooking who is worth knowing? Maybe it’s a person you see every day in your office, or your neighbor, or maybe someone much younger or older than you. Maybe it’s someone you never considered might have something to teach you or show you because of their education, their job, or some other assumption you have.
And perhaps you are that person for someone else.
Remember that we all have tremendous stories inside of us. Some of them are in our past, some are happening now, or they may be ahead of us. But we don’t always wear them in our job titles or our current circumstances.
So look closer, start building a network that matters, and get to know someone new. I hope it's a great thing for you both for a long time to come.