No More Networking

No More Networking

Thinking differently about networking can make it an asset rather than a chore.

Webster’s dictionary defines “networking” as “the developing of contacts or exchanging of information with others in an informal network, as to further a career.” Dictionary version or not, networking is a scary term for many. And Webster certainly doesn’t make it sound appealing.

To boost your brand, turn this concept on its head and just say no to networking. Instead, reframe the concept as relationship building. I promise you that business and other good things will come your way. Much as growing social capital is best thought of as making multiple deposits yourself before expecting withdrawals, an intentional effort to boost the relationships in your current world will naturally grow your network and spheres of influence.

Do it right now

Saying no to networking and yes to relationship building will lessen any fear or edginess, whether you’re just starting a career or a seasoned pro in position to become a firm’s rainmaker. It also means resisting the urge to collect dozens of business cards at your next business gathering and thinking the cards alone will miraculously lead to new business.

“When I hear about an opportunity—an event or bit of news—I immediately think ‘What can I do with this information?’ ” explains Paula Wilhelm, client services coordinator at Gallup’s Minnetonka office. “In my mind, I sort for the right person or group to share the information. Channeling my knowledge about good business etiquette, I [then] communicate the information.”

If relationship building sounds too cosmic for you, do you recognize prospecting, its close cousin? “Prospecting is an organic process that happens everywhere,” stresses consultant Steve Kloyda, founder of the Prospecting Expert, based in Rosemount. “Whether you are standing in line at a coffee shop or waiting for your next flight, pay attention, because there is a potential opportunity standing or sitting next to you.” Kloyda travels all over the country helping people avoid missed opportunities in familiar places. As he puts it: “Wherever you are, be there.”

Social capital adds value to networking

If you are in more obvious business settings, “being socially connected can keep you smart and a better resource for clients and prospects,” says Sarah Kostial, private banker at Alerus Financial in Minnetonka. “I have done this by building a core group of strategic partners that complement my business lines and the needs of my clients,” she notes. “My clients appreciate that I have a Rolodex of professionals with whom we can meet together to [address] needs or bridge gaps.”

Kostial’s focus on listening is front and center as part of her brand identity. She is valuable to clients and to others in their networks. Because she is intentional with these interactions, Kostial has naturally built her network and finds joy in connecting people or getting connected. She also has stories about the tangible rewards she receives from placing the interests of her network in a priority position.

As always, attitude is paramount. “Show a real interest in what other people are doing,” urges Robb Gruman, vice president for construction, project management and space at Fairview Health Services. When you meet new people at that coffee shop or at your chamber’s next event, he reminds you to ask follow-up questions to showcase your interest in these new contacts. This also helps you decipher how you can help the person with an immediate need or connect them to others.

Practicing these no-more-networking tips should lead you down the road of successful relationship building and prospecting—whether you are in line at Target or bellied up at the bar for happy hour at Oceanaire (and I can verify it’s a good one). You just never know unless you say yes to letting yourself be there. TCB

Roshini Rajkumar is a communication coach, host of News & Views on WCCO Radio, and author of Communicate That! For additional communication tips, visit