Organic Networking, Beyond the Card

Organic Networking Beyond the Card

by Rasmus Rasmussen on November 15, 2011

When I moved from Copenhagen to Seattle, I took none of my network with me. My life was getting a reboot, and I found myself facing the daunting task of starting over – socially, and to a certain degree, professionally. Contrary to popular belief, I am not a very active networker. I despise most “networking events”. They make me feel like I am being pitched to – and that I need to pitch myself. It’s a forced and unnatural situation that makes me cringe.

However, I do consider myself a social person. I love meeting smart, talented people but I prefer a more direct, personal context. I think of it as organic networking.

I am definitely drawn to people who are better than me at something, and with whom I have good chemistry. They don’t have to be in a field related to my own, or even one I see myself involved with. Creative talent and winning personalities inspire me regardless of their professional field or level of education. It’s one of the reasons I started Another Passion in the first place.

Since my early twenties, I have made a conscious effort to finish every large project with at least one new relationship. I use the word ‘relationship’ here to distinguish between a name in your contacts and someone you actually socialize with; even if the socializing is limited to Twitter. It doesn’t matter if the project was a job, a workshop or some other event, or whether it itself was a success. If a lasting relationship was formed, it was probably worth my time.

A contact is a phone number or e-mail you’ve saved for some reason. Two months from now, you will be cleaning out your files, uncover the card/e-mail and toss it. If you have ever been to a convention or trade show, you know what I’m talking about. Cards are fine, but only as a supplement. A relationship is based on genuine interest. For me, collecting 100 contacts is a waste of time compared to connecting (even on a slightly deeper level) with just one person.

Here’s the thing: It’s not about you. In any type of relationship you give as much as you receive – at times even more. I don’t keep score, but I do listen to my gut. Through trial and (thankfully very little) error, I am getting good at recognizing those looking for a shortcut, whether it’s a quick profit or a step up the social/corporate ladder. Some have no problems taking advantage of you to further their own agenda. Others are flakes, well meaning but too distracted to follow through.

Still, I believe that when networking is approached from a relationship-building angle and you leave the used-car-salesman tactics at home, the result is a stronger foundation for increased inspiration, productivity and success. At least that has proven to be the case in my own life.

Reaching out to someone you would like to know better is easy. Just send a note. Not to sell or promote anything, but to give a well deserved compliment, share an idea or if appropriate, invite them out for coffee.

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