5 myths about networking DEBUNKED
Oh em GEEEE, what a huge week the last one was! I haven’t had a week like it before, ever, in my lifetime. Of course, the Halberg Awards were something else. I still have no idea how it all came together. From tan to the taxi home, it’s all a bit of a blur. And no, not because there was champagne on tap (well, not just because there was champagne on tap..)! It was a blur because it was an event that was so completely foreign to a hustler like me. The occasion.. The people.. That dress (which, between you and me, cost a grand total of $45.. Vintage stores = the way!).. The whole occasion was just too spectacular, and I was so honoured to be a part of it.
I’ll admit, I didn’t quite stick to my New Year’s resolution of getting up early on the Friday however..
Aside from the Halberg Awards, I did a bucket load of networking last week. Coffee meetings, Skype dates, email exchanges, negotiations, interviews.. It was all go!
As I said last night on the ‘gram last night, as awesome as last week was, it was also exhausting. I struggled to stay awake yesterday. With good intention, I went to bed super early last night.. Only to stay conscious, tossing and turning until 3am (why does that always happen – give me a break, brain!).
But, this morning, I woke up excited. Excited by the possibilities.. Excited by the potential.. Excited by life. And excitement trumps exhaustion every time!
So, in light of last week, I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve learnt on my journey so far about networking – and in doing so, possibly debunk a few of the myths so often associated with it..
Myth number 1 – Networking is annoying
Imagine this.. You have worked super hard to get to where you are your life. You’re in a position where you’re successful, you’re happy, you’re at the top of your game, whatever that game is.. You’ve pursued, you’ve hustled, you’ve worked, you’ve even failed to get to where you are.. And finally, you’re just a little bit proud of yourself. Imagine then that one day, you receive an email or a phone call from someone who is just starting out. They’re asking you for advice, for recommendations, for some direction, for your story.. They think you’re awesome. They think you’re amazing. They are probably inspired by not only what you do, but who you are. They are probably nervous and jittery, and are anticipating that they’ll be shut down or ignored. They have probably been penning that email for 2 hours, trying to get the wording just right, trying to sound professional and keen but not too keen so as to put you off. They have put the effort in to reach out. Now, if that successful person was you (which, by the way, it will be one day!).. Would you be annoyed?
Trust me when I say that I’ve done my fair share of networking (in some form, I still do it every day.. Just you wait for myth #5!). In my experience, not once has someone been rude, off-stand-ish, or annoyed. People are generally genuinely happy to help. They are happy to meet, happy to chat, happy to email, happy to give direction.. Because once upon a time, they were you. And they’ll remember that it took people like them to provide a bit of motivation, a fresh take, an idea that they could run with to keep them going.. It’s not annoying. It’s incredibly humbling. So don’t be afraid to reach out!
The worst thing that can happen? They won’t reply. The best thing that can happen? The whole world.
Myth number 2 – Networking is the cheats way ahead
Let’s get this straight.. Just because you know someone does not mean that you’re about to get the job, the gig, the contract, the role.. It is not a golden ticket!
In Wellington, I studied and worked in the radio industry – so naturally, when I first moved to Auckland, I started applying for jobs in radio. Now, because I was doing this, I asked my old tutors if there was anyone I should get in contact with regarding opportunities in the Auckland radio circle. Sure enough, I received a few names and email addresses to reach out to (see, they were happy to help!). I did reach out.. And I did receive helpful replies.. Over phone calls, emails and coffee dates, I was humbled with some excellent advice. And sure enough, radio jobs started popping up! I was lucky enough to be interviewed for several, and of course, was sure to mention that I had chatted to (insert important person’s name here).
However, clearly, I didn’t receive any of those positions.
My point here, is networking can only get you so far. Sure, it may get you that all important foot in the door, but whether or not you actually get the job, the idea, the dream across the line, is not based purely on who you know. It is simply another tool one can employ, another road one can explore, another avenue one test – but it’s a fallible one! If networking really was the cheats way out, pretty sure I’d be Oprah right now.
Myth number 3 – networking is only for extroverts
You’ll probably be surprised to know that according to Myers Briggs (what a woman!), I’m classified as an extrovert.. A lot of people think that this makes networking easy, but I still get flippin’ nervous that, for example, I’ll vomit on Richie McCaw’s suit as I ask him for a selfie..
Many people think that in terms of networking, I’m lucky to be an extrovert, because they assume that introverts don’t have a hope in hell of doing it effectively.
Bull to the shit!
Firstly, networking isn’t just about just you. It’s also about them. It’s about asking questions. What networking does, is open the door to a conversation where you can learn about people, about an industry, about a brand, which you can then take away and ponder what could work, and where you might be able to fit in.
This type of interaction doesn’t have to be had, let’s say, in the Vector Arena surrounded by attractive rugby greats.. There are emails, there’s Linked In, there are one-on-one conversations, which are far less intimidating. People are humbled when asked about themselves, about what they know, what they have learnt (see point 1!).. As long as you are capable of asking questions, you can be an effective networker, whether you’re an in or an ex. And when you put it like that, being an introvert as opposed to an extrovert definitely sounds like the better deal!
Myth number 4 – networking is slimy and shallow
This one really irks me. Firstly, people are not dumb. Therefore, if you are networking for the wrong reasons, it’s going to be seen through straight away, don’t you worry about that!
The truth is, networking is anything but selfish and shallow. It’s all about fostering a relationship. It’s about mutual respect. It’s about reciprocity. It’s as much about what you can do for them as it is about what they can do for you. Networking is complimentary, not rudimentary. It does not stand alone!
Networking is a tool to open doors, to explore possibility, to build other people up through individual skills and offerings. It’s about finding something common, something fresh, or maybe even something uncommon, and helping each-other out through collaborations, ideas, shared passions and connection.. Networking is about working together to discover a niche, to incite change, to inspire a greater good.. Networking is about opportunities that, without having reached out to that person, business, community, would never even exist..
Does that sound shallow to you?
Myth number 5 – to be effective, you have to go straight to the top
Ha-ha-ha, this one makes me laugh. Just at the weekend, I was chatting to my good friend’s dad who I hadn’t met before, and, unprovoked, he started to talk about someone he knew in the television industry. I laughed. He inquired. I divulged my dream. And sure enough, I left his company with an email address and a vote of confidence!
Networking can happen literally anywhere. That person you sit next to on the bus probably knows someone who excels in marketing, as a nurse, as a painter.. Going out for coffee is networking. Chatting to your hairdresser is networking. Sending out a tweet is networking. Tagging a friend in a job posting on Facebook is networking. It’s not all about reaching for the top. It’s about working together to create something brilliant (see point 4). As we know, the hustle is all about the journey to get to where you want to go, as well as the awesome people you meet along the way. After all, that’s where all the magic happens..
Keep an open mind every day, whatever you do and whoever you encounter!
PHEW! I really hope you’ve gained something from my rant today, and hope you’ll employ networking as a big part of your hustle strategy. As I said, go in to networking with an open mind, and remember that, like anything, it won’t always work.. It won’t always go somewhere.. And it’s definitely not the easy way out.. But it is bloody exciting! Networking is all about meaningful connection.. So go forth and explore the possibilities that, right now, you won’t even know exist..
If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to email the TV contact I received at 7pm on Saturday night while wearing jandals and chatting to the oldest person at the party..
Have I missed anything? Feel free to comment below!