Stop Networking… Start Building Relationships

Businessteam at a meetingIf you, like me, feel a wave of panic coming on when you hear the word “networking,” it might be time for a change.

Let’s start by not calling it that. Reframe. Here’s how I’d like you to think about it instead: “relationship building“.

I like that better because, well, that’s what it really is. And, relationship building sounds a bit more authentic and genuine. Plus, relationship building something  you already do, every day.

For example, you build relationships with your friends, people in your family, your college professors, people you’ve worked on summer jobs or internships with, people at church, or at your local pub. Perhaps you’ve played on athletic teams or participated in volunteer projects.

It’s likely you did a whole lot of relationship building. So clearly, it’s a skill you already have. Now that you’re a professional, you’re going to start Building Relationships with new people as you manage your job search strategy and grow in your professional life.

See, doesn’t that feel better? You can now overcome whatever relationship building anxiety you have!

“It’s a skill, you can learn it.” (Zig Ziglar).

Here are 3 keys to keep in mind as you explore these new conversations:

1. Be Yourself!

In the frenzy of post-college life you might feel the need to impress, sell, pitch, even accost. Without deep experience or a lot of connections, you might feel you don’t yet have enough to offer and then overcompensate. Or you might feel like you don’t belong, and avoid. But I assure you, you do have enough to offer! So just be yourself.

Step back and take a breath. Shake off the anxiety. Get comfortable in your own skin. Approach these conversations for what they are: making personal connections with people you don’t know, yet. That means you don’t try to be someone you’re not. Be kind and courteous, appear engaged and interested when others are speaking, and keep your sense of humor about you.

2. Develop Your Conversational Skill Set

In the workplace, work gets done through the relationships you build. In relationships, the primary way we interact is through communication. So when you start relationship building, you need to develop your communication skills vis-a-vis conversation.

After all, this is a bit different than sitting around the student lounge debating who’s going to get a rose from the bachelor. For relationship building or other conversations, you will always feel comfortable if you learn how to navigate the different components to the conversation:

  1. How to introduce yourself and open a conversation
  2. How to connect with, relate to and find common ground with others during conversations
  3. How to create opportunity for future conversations and connection
  4. How to politely close and excuse yourself from a discussion

These are four pieces for which you can design your own templates, and apply to any conversation.

Developing your conversational skill set will take 90% of the anxiety out of the situation. Maybe more.

3. Understand Your Objectives

I see young careerists engage in relationship building even when they are not sure why.

These are the people who run around a room grabbing every card they can without really engaging with others. Unclear objectives will only stress you out more and disrupt your confidence. Networking events are not a competition to see who can collect the most cards… you must have a sense for what you’re expecting to get out of each experience!

Before you go to an event, or commit to a one–on-one conversation, ask yourself:

  • What’s my objective for this event/conversation?
  • How does it support my career/job search objectives?
  • What type of people do I want to be sure to meet?
  • What am I going to offer to the people that I meet?
  • What preparation do I need to be a good conversationalist?

When you’re clear about your desired outcomes, you have good conversational skills, and you are able to be yourself, you will look like a relationship building superstar.

Stop thinking about networking as an unpleasant task. In fact, stop “networking” altogether… and instead build one mutually-beneficial relationship at a time!





For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Degrees of Transition!



LeaAbout the Author: Lea McLeod helps recent grads and mid-careerists navigate the job search. And once you have a job, she’ll coach you to the brilliant performance of which you are capable! Her “Developing Patterns of Success” Workshop has been deployed to help thousands of college hires worldwide do just that. She blogs at Follow her on Facebook, and Twitter, too.



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