The Subtle Art of Networking

by Shonali Burke on July 14, 2010

The definition of networking

is “to cultivate people who can be helpful to one professionally.” The core of this is lost on most business owners and salespeople.

To cultivate means to really work at something. In order to network well, we must plan to befriend those around us.

We work with people we like, not just people we know.

How many times have you been to an event where people asked you what you did then stared over your shoulder to find someone else who might give them business? Notice how I didn’t ask if you have been, because everyone has.

Networking is a subtle art form that has been so badly misused that people cringe when they hear of a networking event. But it’s typically not the event that’s scary, it’s the people. Some people still haven’t learned how to network without selling.

Selling is the base of all scariness in networking.

Here are some tools to help you stop selling & start building relationships:

Be engaged.

If you’re in a conversation, don’t look for other people to talk to. Enjoy what you’re in at that moment.

Network with everyone.

Just because someone isn’t a good client of yours doesn’t mean they can’t be a great referral source.

Be a resource.

If people know that you give out great information they’re more likely to want to work with you.

Be a connector.

If you see people who aren’t engaging in conversation, invite them into your group. If someone says they’re looking for a certain type of person & you know someone who can help them, introduce them to that person.

Stop talking about what you do.

Start talking about what you like to do and connect with people on a higher level than just work.

Don’t force a conversation.

Some people just aren’t meant to connect. If you feel stuck in a conversation, excuse yourself to use the bathroom or to say hi to someone else.

Don’t judge.

Just because someone has a job you’re not interested in, it might not define them. The person might be really interesting in other parts of their life. Ask them about those things instead.


Stop blathering on and start listening. You’ll probably be remembered as a great conversationalist.

Networking happens everywhere.

Networking events aren’t the only place to network. Find unassuming places to meet people & practice friend-making. Those types of events typically result in business relationships.

Be yourself.

Stop trying to be a salesperson and just have a friendly conversation. People know when you’re trying too hard.

Next time you head to an event

don’t have a goal of how many business cards you’ll get.

Instead, plan to make at least one friend. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much business you’ll get out of that.

Happy networking!

More from Women Grow Business:

Image: Landii, Creative Commons

Melanie Spring is the principal and project director at Sisarina Inc., and a regular contributor to, and avid fan of, Women Grow Business. An expert networker, Melanie and Sisarina connect individuals and companies with the tools they need to market and promote their brand successfully and efficiently. Connect with her on Twitter where she’s @sisarina.

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