Liz Reyer is a columnist at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. (Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)
Q: I know networking is important but I’ve never really liked it, and now during the pandemic it seems even harder. What should I do?
— Johan, 42, operations director
A: Redefine “networking” to “connecting,” enhancing existing relationships and forming new ones.
This isn’t merely semantics. Words express our feelings and for many people, the very term “networking” carries baggage.
See for yourself: What emotions arise when you think about making networking outreaches on the phone, via e-mail, or at professional events? Based on your question, I’m thinking anxiety, boredom, or dread come to mind. You may fear rejection or feel like you’re imposing.
That’s because networking has acquired a transactional vibe that it doesn’t necessarily deserve. The essence of networking is to meet others and share your stories.
Particularly when you are not in job transition or have a specific need, networking is about connecting to others, sharing information between you, and setting both of you up for more success. It’s not “what can you do for me now.”
Perhaps you don’t manage networking conversations well, or your meetings just don’t seem productive.
As with any meeting, a better outcome is achieved when you go in prepared. This is where the 20-Minute Networking Meeting books, written by Marcia Ballinger with Nathan Perez, can help you.