Networking. Whether we love it or hate it, our career demands it.
Those of us who hate it tend to see networking as “smarmy,” sales-y” or just plain anxiety-producing. It can feel less than authentic going into a room of people solely to promote yourself.
But Patti DeNucci has a different take on networking. She shared her networking strategies at Freelance Austin’s monthly educational session on Wednesday, June 12th. Her talk “The Intentional Networker (TM)” was interactive and encouraging, even for the most introverted among us.
Intentional networking begins with asking yourself what you want and need. From there, plan and act according to your intentions.
First, ask yourself:
What does networking mean for you—today, tomorrow, and into the future?
Before choosing an event to attend, or a contact to have coffee with, begin with the end in mind. What do you intend to learn? How will you use the information you gather? What’s your reason for getting out of your yoga pants and into the world? What is your purpose? What’s your vision for your life?
Once you figure out what you need to learn and who you’d like to know, you can choose the networking opportunities that work best for you.
From there, follow these guidelines:
Make a conscious choice to be a high-value networker.
Networking becomes enjoyable when we learn to ask the right questions and listen for how we can be of value to the people we’re talking to. Aim to get below the surface by stepping away from small talk and moving into a slightly more personal space. Some questions you can start with include:
- What brought you here today?
- What are you currently working on?
- What did you think about X?
- What’s been your favorite project so far?
Step away from talking about the weather. Move closer to seeing how you may help each other. Do the opposite of self-promotion. Good, open-ended questions are the foundation of making quality connections.
There are 4 types of high-value network targets.
People who help you solve today’s problems. These are people who can help you get things done, deal with a difficult situation, or who simply support you as you sort out a current problem.
People you just like to hang out with. Many a freelancer has landed a client from their sports club, mother’s group, or network of friends. Taking a break to have some fun just may get you more work.
People you volunteer and build community with. Some of the most supportive and helpful contacts you’ll ever meet are found when you volunteer. When you work together with people on special projects, they get to know you and know what it’s like to work with you.
People who know what you need to learn next. Think about how you want your career to grow, then attend groups and events related to your future goals. You’ll not only gain key insights, but also you’ll develop the right connections for when the time is right to take the next step.
Patti’s top 4 intention-based networking tactics.
Connect with yourself first. What do you love doing? Where are you weak? What do you really find boring? How do you operate? Knowing the answers will help guide you towards the people you need to know.
Deeply understand what you want. What does success look like for you? What’s your vision for every facet of your life? Think not only about your career, but your relationships, your down-time, your big goals. Develop your goals around that vision.
Show up as your intention. Look the part. Act the part. If you know who you want to be and who you want to work with, start being the person who has that client and that status.
Choose quality over quantity. Don’t attend networking events because you should or because someone invited you. Go because it supports your vision for the life you want to create.
Networking can actually be life-affirming.
Networking can be something you do because you want to. It’s possible to turn this career-building chore into a method for building quality connections that enhance your life. Instead of being anxiety-producing, networking can become fun when you do it with intention. Start with Patti’s tips, and see how much closer you move towards your vision of what your business and life can be.
Patti DeNucci works with smart professionals who want to attract, build, and leverage more purposeful and rewarding connections so they can enjoy greater success and satisfaction in work and in life. Her clients include Fortune 500 corporations, associations, conference planners, and small to mid-size organizations, and sales teams. She shares her expertise via engaging, interactive presentations, workshops, discussions, and strategy sessions.
Patti’s first book, The Intentional Networker: Attracting Powerful Relationships, Referrals & Results in Business is a success guide for motivated people who want to connect and build relationships with greater purpose, polish, presence and productivity. The book swept the non-fiction category in the 2011 Indie Reader Discovery Awards and was chosen among thousands of entries as a Finalist in ForeWord Review’s 2011 Book of the Year.