Networking is, for me, a dirty word. I hate schmoozing. I hate anything that smacks of self-promotion, especially if it is disguised as being “friendly.” I don’t need to be liked that much, and I don’t like people who are working hard to be likable. So I tend to avoid anything labeled a “networking opportunity” like the plague. And yet I am networking all the time. Sometimes without even leaving the house. This newfangled thing called the internet allows me to meet and talk to all kinds of interesting people, on blogs and message boards and twitter. I only pay attention to people I like, and presumably the people who respond to me do so because they like me (or my content at least). This leads to casual connections that could lead to all kinds of other relationships – including business relationships. I don’t think this way, fundamentally, but I’ve watched all kinds of connections develop here.
And then there’s real life. The stuff where I spend time with family and friends and people I like. A lot of my best networking happens at work. People who like to work with me will be open to helping me in the future, and vice versa. Today I had a meeting with a friend of mine who wants to hire the company I work for to do some motion graphics work for a branding agency. And all this because I worked with her briefly eight years ago and we remained friends.
I got my current job probably to a large degree because I used to work with a good friend of one of the owners and she recommended me. References are not trustworthy, but friends are. So without trying I have been networking all my life. Even my far-too-frequent visits to my neighborhood sushi restaurant are a form of networking. The waitresses know me – they know which sake I like and how I like it (Ozeki – cold) – and I will always remember them. Though in all likelihood we will never make use of this connection, it is there… and you never know.
It’s actually harder to avoid networking than it is to do it…