It’s dreadfully early on Thursday morning and 150 half awake, yet fashionable and smiling, Madisonians are crammed into the Roosevelt Reading Room at the Madison Club attempting to inject coffee into their mouths and not onto their suits. The words, “What do you do?” echo over the required gracious laughs.
Networking 101 teaches us to seek a genuine connection with new acquaintances by asking questions and seeking mutual benefits, and above all giving more than receiving. So, why aren’t we instead asking, “Why are you here?” Are we afraid we’ll get the truth? Perhaps a performance evaluation is coming up and the 57-year-old accountant we’ve just met has been challenged to “network more.” Will he actually share that he is five events short on his quarterly tally? Or do we not ask for fear of selfishly realizing we just wasted 10 minutes, not with a future client, but with (yet another) “professional in transition.”
If the tables were turned, what would you say if someone asked (in your morning fog or evening exhaustion), “Why are you here?” Sales 101 teaches us to never pick up the phone or meet anyone without a clear purpose. Aren’t many networking happy hours just big sales rep orgies? I’m certain everyone in the room has a SMART goal in their left pocket upon entering the Brink, right? I dare each of us to change our WIIFM-goal mindset to a service-goal mindset.
For example, instead of a typical goal of “Meet six new people at the next meet- and-greet” how about “Pull the SMART goal out of four new acquaintances’ pockets and do everything possible to assist those new contacts in achieving that goal”? Who knows, you may match that overwhelmed employer with their next emerging leader or play matchmaker to a couple that will someday celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary!