When someone says “networking”, what do you think of?

  • Do you get a gut-shot of fear and mild nausea?
  • Do you feel a sense of miserable obligation combined with deep dread?
  • Do you imagine a slimey salesey dude in shiny shoes, wandering up to a CEO and saying,

“Hi. You’re important. Love your shoes. I’m amazing

Hire me, and you’ll make BIG BUCKS.”,

before doing that move where they shake hands and simultaneously switch a business card?



  • Do you feel excited and raring to go?
  • Do you start daydreaming about all the awesome new friends you’ll make?
  • Do you know that you’re going to have the MOST fun at this event/conference/meeting, and all because of the networking you’ll be doing?

If you answered an, “oh GOD yes” to the first set, and an “are you flipping kidding me, Marsha??” to the second: you’re in the right place.

For years, I was in the same camp as you. But now: I bloody LOVE networking.


The Big Secret – Revealed!


Here’s the big secret of what networking REALLY is. Are you ready?

THAT'S the secret? It's THAT easy?


Networking is just talking to nice people that you get on well with,

about things that you’re both interested in.



How It Actually Works

Imagine this: your friend Emma – who now lives out of town – emails you. Her old college chum, Sally, is visiting your city on holiday from Buenos Aires. She asks whether it would be ok if you met up to tell Sally the good places to go in your city. You don’t have to spend all week with her – just have one coffee.

You agree – slightly begrudgingly, because you’re busy and these things can be awkward, but Emma is a good friend and you’re happy to help her out.

You make a plan with Sally, and meet her for a coffee. Turns out, Sally is awesome. The two of you have a ton in common and you really enjoy spending time with her. You’re chatting away about all sorts, and you then remember she wants some help with her visit. You give her loads of information about the city, and even offer to take her out with your friends one night. You do this with pleasure, because you like her and want to help her out. As you’re about to part, she tells you that you’re welcome to come and stay in Buenos Aires any time. She has a big apartment with a spare bed. Sweet!


OR perhaps you really don’t like Sally. She’s kind of awful. You wonder whether Emma spent her friend-choosing college years constantly drunk. You stay for the bare minimum just to be polite, give her a couple of generic tourism pointers, then say goodbye. You know that she has a big apartment in Buenos Aires, and it briefly crosses your mind that you should be nicer so that you she’ll offer to have you visit her sometime, but you immediately squash the thought. That feels fake and a bit gross.


OR maybe the two of you don’t wildly hit it off, but you get on OK. There are some gaps in conversation – you’re never going to be best buds – but on the whole, it’s fine and you think of some things to talk about. Most importantly, you think she’s a really nice lady, and one who has similar moral values as you. Before you part, you give her a bunch of information about the city; it’s a nice thing to do and she’s a nice person. She is really grateful, and offers to show you around should you ever make the trip to Argentina.


This, my friend, is EXACTLY what networking is.





How You Can Relate This To Your Working Environment

Whilst you don’t necessarily have a friend in common, everybody in your industry (or related ones) has two big things in common:
(1) it’s good for you to talk to each other

(2) you are in the same (or a similar) industry!


Note that in the first and last example with Sally, there was no schmoozing. No fake compliments or self big-ups. And the things you did for Sally, you didn’t do because you thought you could get something out of her – you did them because you wanted to and because they came naturally.

In all honesty, I don’t think that being nicer to her in example two would be that terrible a thing to do – you would still be helping each other out so it’s a fair exchange. But I would advise doing this in moderation. Whilst it’s sometimes necessary, every time you help someone you don’t like JUST for the kickback, it steals a tiny bit of your soul.


So now, just imagine that instead of being friends-of-a-friend, you and Sally are in the same industry. Then switch the “doing nice things for each other when you’re tourists” to “doing work-related favours and kindnesses”. When you’re dealing with nice, normal and non-fiercely-competitive people, it equates to the same thing. This means: YOU are totally capable of doing it! And in a way that doesn’t make you feel like anyone is using or schmoozing anyone else – all you’re doing is spreading good will and easy generosity.


Now you know how easy it is to network, the next things to know are how and where to get yourself into these conversations, and what turns them into tangible results – subjects that will be covered in parts two and three of this series.


Now It’s Your Turn

In the meantime, can you think of an example – business or otherwise – where you’ve helped someone out purely because you really wanted to? Maybe you’ve had your partner’s brother ask your advice? Told someone you’d pass on their resume to your former colleague? Given some wise words of wisdom to an intern? I’d love to hear your real-life examples – write them down in the comments below.

If you’ve enjoyed this article and can think of anyone else who also will, please forward it to them, or post the link on twitter, facebook and/or LinkedIn.

Can’t wait to hear your stories below!



Photo Credits: Pixel whippersnapper via Compfight cc & Leedman via Compfight cc

1 Comment

  • Cecilia Moorcroft

    Reply Reply April 21, 2013

    I love this Marsha!

    I used to break out in hives whenever I heard the word networking until I realized it’s something I do ALL THE FREAKING TIME!

    I love meeting new people and connecting them with folks who can help. My massage therapist told me at one point that I had to stop referring people to her because she couldn’t handle the volume.

    I have to say that I still don’t love the word networking but I adore connecting so I just do that. No agenda, just the desire to share something real.


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