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Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Networking Virus

I stood semi uncomfortably around a group of young professionals silently analyzing and sipping a free drink I got from a bar upstairs. The event I was attending had little importance to me advancing my career. I was there because I was invited and wanted to support the friends that I truly respect. Sure the free sausages on the crummy white fold out tables were enticing, but I seemed to feel out of my element. Young 20 and 30 something's were all shaking hands, patting soldiers and touching drinks together as if they have been life long friends. 

The youthful entrepreneurial spirit that seems to take up space in most thriving cities and post college career events have seem to create a type of sly networking bunch. We all have that friend fresh out of school or trying to break the traditional 9 to 5 job routine and pursue his start up idea. If you don't know someone or a group of people that act like this then this piece will be of great educational value. With the invention of smartphones and email, the ability to talk, get numbers and relate to people has increased ten fold. Young groomed men and women are using their portable pocket computers to "advance their career" and " network" with potential investors, colleagues or customers. South by Southwest is a huge breeding ground for this type of behavior. People put on a mask and uniquely trick themselves into believing that they can get peoples contacts with the expectation of benefits. 

A young white male might get a
Fancy cocktail from the free bar and roll up to another group of tightly groomed white males and females. I want to make it clear that I am only using a white male as an example and I am not saying that only white people engage in "networking". Networking spreads between all races, classes and nose sizes. 

White guy: " hey! ( handshake ) my name is Todd! 

While this white guy greets the other white guy, a few socially normal lubrication techniques are administered. 
" Who are you with? Who do you know here?" 
It also might be common for the young white male to make a comment of the "hot" females present or even the greatness of having access to a free bar." 

After a few conversational check marks are met and a common ground is made, it is ideal for the white male iniator to grab out his smart phone device and ask a few relevant questions. 

" Are you on twitter ?" 
" What's your handle?" 
"Can I find you on LinkedIn?" 

The receiver of such questions might grab his phone out of obligation and self interest and tell him what social media he uses. They both might follow each other or send requests to get connected on the internet. This would be the perfect time to slip in your business pitch or tell them what you are all about. You have to make sure and get that down, right ? People need to know about your company, ideas or your agenda, right? After all, time is money right? 

From a pseudo cynical perspective, all these networking types are agenda based organisms with the only intention of self interest and career advancement. They could care less if they really hear back from you. It's a lot like fishing, you might catch some small fish that you have to throw back in the water, or you may get the big catch and enjoy the juicy meat of success. These types have little to no knowledge of developing authentic relationships and friendships. Don't get me wrong, networking has it's perks and necessities in the ideal environment. Sometimes you have to put on that tilted car salesman mask to really get your point across and further your need to make a living. Networking becomes a virus when it becomes your primary purpose of meeting new people and only seeing the self benefit of meeting others. 

How can this interaction with this new person help me? Do I really want to hear about this guys old fat cat, or should I just get his email and email him tomorrow ? 

I have been guilty of this seedy type of behavior before. You can be blindsighted by only focusing on your mental Rolodex. You simply only wait to get your point across and wait for the person to stop talking so you can tell them about your band, blog, start up idea, or some financial set up that you think would benefit them. Does this seem familiar to you? Does it make you feel a little dirty? On some level, it should. Some people can see right though your self righteous bullshit and roll their eyes while trying to look for a conversational escape plan. You would be surprised that you can get most of what you want or what you think you want by developing authentic relationships with people. Listening and awareness are two important things to consider when encountering new people. 

What is your agenda? Do you even have one when going to an important event or dare I say a lush cocktail party? You might think that politicians and extreme activists are the only ones with semi transparent agendas, but they take all types of forms including "you"! Yes, most of the time there are some type of strings attached. The hardcore networkers seem to be victims of their own intentions in regard to their fabricated perception. It's almost a seduce and conquer type mentality where the main goal is to get as many contacts as possible. 

Next time you go out it might be wise to check your agenda at the door or at least wait to take the right person out to lunch or dinner with the intention of spewing your ultimate plan to revolutionize the "app" market. Just make sure to pick up the bill and seal each interaction with an affirmative handshake. Icing on the cake my friends! 

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