Networking is one of those motherhood-and-apple-pie things that has popped up in every career I have had: there were networking groups for women lawyers when I was a lawyer in Calgary, there are networking organizations for people in financial services, and there are all sorts of networking opportunities for entrepreneurs. But with the utmost respect to people who find networking in groups useful, my own experience of networking is that it really only works when it is simply old fashioned relationship building done in the course of meeting people in various organic ways.
WHAT WORKS FOR ME
I have found personally that any event or group that is labelled “networking” is not nearly as likely to result in a meaningful, rich relationship than activities like this:
– joining the board of a meaningful (to me) charity and over a number of months or years getting to know fellow board members
– chatting every day with the people who work out at the gym at the same time
– talking to a fellow entrepreneur about a specific issue or problem and asking for their advice and help with it
– agreeing to meet people who are interested in what I am doing and want to find out more – and then learning new things from them and perhaps following up later with another coffee.
My experience with formal networking is that the emphasis can be on the negative and the problems: the problem with being a woman in law, the challenges with being in financial services, how bad it is to be an entrepreneur and deal with this or that. I am not a Polly Anna and I acknowledge that these are all real problems. I also agree that talking problems over with others who have had a similar specific experience can really help if the discussion is oriented to finding solutions. But often it has seemed to me at “networking events” that others find it cathartic to simply commiserate and that doesn’t work for me.