This week’s Philadelphia ASTD (American Society for Training and Development) meeting (www.astdphl.org) reminded me of one of my timeless beliefs about networking. To me, this word means sharing business cards or working a room (or social media site) for your own advantage. In contrast, when I go to networking events, I view meeting new people as the art of making new friends.
Interested in making new friends? Here are some tips I thought about sharing with you all as I was making new friends at this week’s ASTD meeting.
1. Go to fewer events. I used to feel the need to go to as many networking events as I could. If you are looking for work in particular, you should be meeting as many new contacts as possible, right? I disagree! Instead, identify 1-2 events per month (okay, 1 per week if you are in job search crisis mode!) in which the participants share your interests and/or values. For example, at the aforementioned ASTD event, I got to spend time with people who share my love of education, hear some cutting-edge content about learning myths, and make 5 new friends!
2. Go to help others. So many people go to networking events to find work or clients. Would you want your first meeting with a friend to be all about you? Absolutely not! So, I recommend that you ask others what they are working on, listen intently, and think about ways you can help them. If they are kind-hearted people who share your values, don’t worry – they’ll ask then or later how they can help you. I am reminded of a passage we read each week at the Unitarian-Universalist church, and I am paraphrasing here, “I drink from wells I did not dig, and I am committed to digging wells for those who will come after me.”
3. Practice friendship behaviors. During the event, focus on shared interests. For example, if there is a speaker, ask the person seated next to you what he/she thought of the speaker’s points. After the event, treat people as new friends. Would you send someone you wanted to be your new friend a lifeless template email asking him/her to join your LinkedIn network? Absolutely not! Instead, write about how much you enjoyed meeting him/her, discussing his/her work, and sharing common interests.
I’ll conclude by dedicating this post to the new pals I met at the ASTD event – Mike, Jennifer, Jim, Paul, Robert, and Carolyn, and to the old friends I reconnected with – Brenda and Diane!
What are your tips for making new friends at networking events? Share them here! I wish you all the best in networking. No, scratch that! I wish you all the best in making new friends!