Curiosity vs. the Pitch

I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about networking.

Did you just cringe at the mention of the word “networking?” So many people do at the thought of having to network as part of their job – or even worse – their job search. I wish I could come up with a different word to call this nerve-racking but important part of our professional lives.

So instead, let’s reframe the conversation and your approach.  I’m back to talking about connections and having meaningful conversations. When you think about it like that, suddenly it doesn’t sound so bad.

Here are three quick tips as you approach your next professionally-driven connection.

Come from a place of curiosity rather than pitching yourself

This is a big one for me – especially when it’s a new contact. When you approach a conversation with someone in your network, come in from a place of curiosity first. Ask great questions to either connect, or reconnect with that person. Find out what you have in common. Share stories and ideas. You are sure to discover great information that will allow you both to find value in the discussion. When you both find value, you are more likely to want to help each other with whatever your initial goal was when you reached out.

Reach out when you don’t need anything

What about that person who reaches out for a favor when you haven’t spoken in ages? I just had it happen to me with a long lost friend. He sent a note after years of no contact, asking for me to help him with an application. I get it, I’m a recruiter. I know stuff about the application process for companies. But I’m more likely to spend my valuable non-working time helping someone who has taken time to continue our relationship – not just when they need help. I confess, I didn’t respond to his Facebook message.

Don’t let this be you. Remember to nurture your network when you have nothing but genuine interest in how that person is doing. Maybe it’s a quick congratulatory note because you saw their LinkedIn update showing they got a new job. Maybe it’s a comment on their Facebook post about their cute kids. Let your valued contacts know you actually are interested in them even when you don’t need them. They are far more likely to be willing to help when you do.

Events are great to meet people, but then what?

So often we confuse “networking” with attending an event and handing someone your business card. What happens next? When attending events, this whole approach from a place of curiosity can really be a game changer. You’ll be amazed at how your conversations will be more interesting and meaningful. When you don’t make it about you, often the other person will become curious too and you will get your chance to share. After the event, take that business card and follow up with an email or LinkedIn connection referencing something you liked about your discussion. That makes you far more memorable – especially if you’re connecting with a speaker who had a line of people behind you who also handed them a business card. And don’t forget to nurture the relationship leading into the future.