Many have embraced the idea of eating foods that are local, organic and natural. I propose that we approach our ideas about networking and the activity itself in much the same way.
Networking, like produce, will naturally be fresher when sourced locally. It requires less travel and is certainly less “tired.” LinkedIn and FaceTime make networking much easier, but the simplest forms of networking still take place in our backyard (in the case of a summer barbecue, quite literally). Keep the focus of your networking local and keep it top of mind as you go through your regular daily routine to find small but potentially meaningful opportunities.
Scientifically, “organic” means related to, or derived from living matter. Networking is (or at least it should be) an organic activity that consists of two or more people sharing the ‘living matter’ of their lives. When we network, we discuss who we are, where we’ve been, what we do and where we hope to go.
Networking is a practice more than it is an activity. The more we engage in it, the easier and more natural it becomes, and the more effort we put in, the more we will see in terms of results. What I would call “organic” networking may require you to open up a little more than usual in order to create moments of vulnerability. People need to see the authentic you. These moments can produce creative and wonderful results. Admitting you are afraid of something or admitting you are unfamiliar with something might put you in good company with the other person. You may also find that the response rids you of that fear, helps you turn that weakness into an opportunity for growth, or puts you on a fast track towards your next opportunity.
The FDA considers “natural” to mean food does not contain added colors, artificial flavors or synthetic substances. Networking should be free from unnecessary, artificial or fake interactions as well. Like most things in life, I think we should focus on the real, honest stuff and none of the fillers!
Taking a more natural approach to networking may require us to get away from the idea that networking only takes place during business hours or after-work business events. It doesn’t necessarily have to compete with our family time and responsibilities. The key is to make the most of moments when they come to you.
Don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Choose networking activities that feel natural to you. If you are an avid golfer, make it a point to get out on the course with a few new people. If you’ve always kicked yourself for not taking on a volunteer role at your child’s school or church, consider doing it now. If you participate in a weekly class at the gym, consider making it a point to strike up a conversation and learn about someone new each week. What’s important is that the activity and the interaction will feel less forced, producing positive results in a way that feels more natural to you.