By Leigh-Ann Athanasius

We figure out early on that when we’re networking, we follow the same script of: name >> profession >> find out the same about the other person >> and exchange business cards. However, this often doesn’t take into account how this interaction plays out for someone who isn’t working, or doesn’t have a fancy title. Would they then be perceived as having lesser value?

Listen to this conversation we had with a guest as she shares her thoughts on the “what do you do for a living?” approach to conversations and networking. 

So if we’re not asking each other what we do, we are confronted with the challenge of…

What should I do while networking?

It’s a tricky situation. But it forces us to try and create more meaningful interactions and not operate on autopilot.

In the extract above, the guest mentions that people would lose interest in the conversation when they learnt that she wasn’t working at the time. Have you been a victim of that, or possibly worse, have you been guilty of glazing over when someone tells you they’re currently unemployed?

It’s probably something that we’ve all experienced whether knowingly or unknowingly. And this is why networking should be about getting to know the person behind the title. People are growing and changing all the time. You could even end up being the connector that that person needed. Networks and connections can be so much more than business; and that’s the mentality to go into any networking opportunity with.

Obviously the exchanging of business cards and professional information is never going away, and it shouldn’t. There is a time and place for that and it has its value. What we need to improve on, is seeing someone’s value beyond that. If you take away the transactional nature, it may even make networking more enjoyable especially if you don’t particularly enjoy traditional networking. This also gives you the opportunity to recognise connection possibilities outside of networking events and professional situations.

Networking can be tricky no matter what approach you take for it. Humanising the process and expanding our definition of value in other people and ourselves, could make networking that little bit easier and less intimidating.

So go out and network with an open mind. Put yourself out there and be open to the connection beyond the business card.

You can also check out our LinkedIn page for more insights on networking.

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