8 Reasons You Should be Connecting Instead of Networking

I enjoy meeting people. Talk to me on a plane and I don’t mind a bit, really. Take me to a networking event like a cocktail party, a meet and greet, or a convention and I’m counting the minutes until I get to leave. I leave with fewer business cards than I came with and not truly knowing anyone.

My Name Is Networking

I’ve met some of the most interesting people and they’ve opened my eyes to some interesting things. I met a man on a flight who owned a trucking company. Randy told me of the challenges of the people and the cargo, of the road dangers and about the regulations. He said the most dangerous cargo to haul was… milk. If a milk trucker takes a turn too sharp his cargo may tip him over due to the lack of baffles in the tank. He’d be crying on the side of the road with spilt milk.

I know Randy the trucker and he’s in my contact list. He was interested in what I did and we had a nice two-hour discussion. Neither one of us needed anything from the other. At the end of our conversation, we genuinely wanted to help the other any way we could and we exchanged contact information. We connected.

Networking

We know the value of a business relationship and there are all sorts of events and processes created to network with others. LinkedIn is a great way to network or ‘link’ with other business people you know. Networking is a negative word for me. It feels like I’m out to use someone to my advantage. The definition even refers to “furthering one’s career”.

network     net·work    ˈnetˌwərk/    verb

  1. connect as or operate with a network.
    • interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.
      “the skills of networking, bargaining, and negotiation”

No Office Administrator ever said “I’m going to this networking event because I need to find a salesperson to sell me a new copier”.

We attend networking events with the intentions of making a connection and walk away with a stack of business cards. We meet people who are working to further their business in an immediate fashion.

Connecting

Connecting with people is more about that spark that goes off inside because of an instant connection or draw to a quality that attracts us. When I connect with a person I want to know them, even help them.  It is real and not just for my advantage (although a real connection is a two way street)

connect     con·nect    kəˈnekt/    verb       gerund or present participle: connecting
  1. bring together or into contact so that a real or notional link is established.
    • join together so as to provide access and communication.

Connecting takes time; you get to know someone for who they are and not what they can do for you. The process is more than an invite via email to a social network or the exchange of a business card. Connecting takes humility to be true with yourself and intentions. Connecting is worth it if you are playing the long game of life and not the quarterly game of business.

How to Connect instead of Network

Focus on strengths and not position – Knowing a person means understanding what they enjoy and they are good at. A person’s title may be too limiting to encompass all of those traits. You want to know the person how’s and their why’s and not just their business.

Ask more questions – Dig a layer deeper and ask more about what interests you. It’s through stories and history that we find our connections. Asking more about goals and passions can connect what you both aspire to.

Engage to celebrate the other person’s willingness to share. You learn when you listen, not when you talk. A true connection is going to happen when the other party has an interest in you as well. Until that point seize an opportunity to learn.

Be a connector. The more people you know there will be opportunities to connect others who have a mutual opportunity with each other. A connector is a hero; their reward is their reputation.

Connecting is worth it if you are playing the long game of life and not the quarterly game of business.

Play your own long game at networking events. Win by connecting. Your contact list should become your connections list.