Why You Should NOT Network Like a Politician

March 10, 2010

Many people I know consider networking to be phony, selfish and a colossal waste of time.  I’ve attended plenty of events that fit that description.  But networking is still a way to be of service to others, get to know other people, grow your business and uncover the “hidden” job market.

Last month I was heading downtown for a meeting and I noticed something interesting at the bus/train terminal:  I was mobbed by political candidates and their supporters that were shaking hands and handing out pamphlets.  I even shook the hand of the winning candidate in a very close political race.  After a few moments, I realized why she was there… it was the day before the primary election.

These days I’m more cynical than ever about politics…the Chicago airwaves have been loaded with commercials from candidates who promise to represent their citizens and be their voice.  There’s so much mud being slung, I feel like I need a shower.

I thought back to the candidate whose hand I shook that day: even though I wanted her to win because I felt she was the best choice, the handshake seemed hollow.  Would she be standing there shaking my hand if she didn’t need my vote?

I think networking is much the same way.  We work hard adding new contacts to our LinkedIn profiles and new business cards to our collection. But how many of us keep in touch with our existing contacts before we need their help?  To me, this is one of the most important aspects of networking.

Whether you’re working or in transition, make it a point to get in touch with those friends or acquaintances in your network that you haven’t talked to in a while.  Let them know what you’re up to and if there’s any way you can help them.  Networking isn’t just about building new relationships its also about maintaining them.

Alright, sorry to sound preachy.  I write this post not as an expert, but as someone who has felt like I’ve talked to my network too many times in moments of need and not enough times in moments of strength or when I didn’t need a favor.

How about you…what person from your past have you had coffee with lately?  Who have you been meaning to get in touch with just to say hi?

Flickr Creative Commons illustration courtesy of Aiden Jones.

1 marty March 13, 2010 at 7:33 am

I totally agree with you. This post was right on so many levels. I usually loath networking events. I was (in my former life) the owner of a couple of companies in construction, etc…, and we focused on sustainability. Whenever I would go I would get a ton of resumes, but not real connections to people.

I have been to a few recently where I find myself people watching to recognize the uncomfortable interactions with one another, and almost the look in the eye of what can I get here tonight.

The thought of calling someone just to say hello is almost petrifying to most people. We have to come up with “reasons”, and unfortunately they are usually when we need something.

I’m going to sit with what you said the next time I attend a networking event, and see if I can stir things up a bit.

Thanks for being thoughtful and inspiring.
.-= marty´s last post…Am I a Blogger? =-.

2 Tim March 14, 2010 at 11:01 am

Hi Marty: I know what you mean…networking can seem like a pretty shallow, self serving and sometimes terrifying way to spend time. It gets a little overwhelming when business cards get passed around. But I think it can be rewarding too. I am by no means a master networker, but I’m always looking for opportunities to meet good people and be of service. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts here!

3 Walter March 15, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Networking has been seen as shallow and I have had some experience. However, we can sense those people who meant well than those who are just collecting contacts. 🙂

4 Tim March 16, 2010 at 9:31 am

Hi Walter: There is definitely a wide range of networking events out there which attract a wide range of people. I think its all about connection…passing out business cards for the sake of passing out business cards is a waste of time and bad for the environment 😉 But if we take the time to have an honest conversation and get to know (and possibly help) someone, we have a much better chance of having a better experience. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

5 Ana Goncalves March 23, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Dear Tim,
I also think that keeping in contact with people whom one has connected with in past experiences is important, because it helps to build relationships and establishes a solid foundation between you and the other person. I enjoy keeping in contact with all those that I have come across with, even if sometimes the contact is merely one sided. There is always hope for compromise, especially where connection is concerned.
.-= Ana Goncalves´s last post…Inner Guide =-.

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