Networking is SO 1990s

It’s time to give up the dreaded networking events, sweaty palms and overly rehearsed (read: obviously contrived) conversation starters you learned in Forbes Magazine back in the 90s.

The new currency for building a network is genuine interest in others, compassion and providing value before asking for what you want. Use these principles and a few innovative ways to build valuable business relationships and you’ll never have to read a blog about networking, again.

Why Should I Stop “Networking” and Start Being Interesting?

Making yourself visible in the dark sea of distracting tweets, emails, campaigns, texts, Snapchat, LinkedIn message and Youtube is….nearly impossible and, frankly, a waste of time. Has your cookie-cutter email to companies and people you don’t know really having an impact? And what about those binge-drinking events you attend masquerading as “networking socials.” Doubt it. News flash: drunk people are not the best people with whom to strike a deal or to network. They won’t even remember your name in 20 minutes, let alone care about why you’re sending them your follow up email.

The solution: stop networking and start enjoying yourself and building a reputation for being interesting. Interesting people command attention, develop their own knowledge base and provide value. Here are some ways to do exactly that (Alexandra Levit‘s summary of Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha’s,  The Star-Up of You):

Start Your Own Association

Convene influential friends and colleagues with similar interests to share ideas and resources.  Offer thought-leadership and high-level conversation so that it’s more than just a networking group.  Meet on a regular basis, in a convenient location.  This is a great way to keep relationships strong and receive great insights in the process.

Look for Individuals, not Opportunities

Opportunities are attached to people.  Identify the people in your network who always seem to have their hands in interesting pots.  Try to understand what makes them hubs of opportunity and resolve to meet and develop bonds with more people with these characteristics.

Create an “Intriguing People” Fund

Automatically funnel a certain percentage of your paycheck into a bucket that pays for coffees, lunches, and the occasional plane ticket to meet new people and shore up existing relationships.  Pick a person who is a weaker tie but with whom you would like to have a stronger alliance, and for several months, invest time and energy into building the relationship via shared knowledge and offers to help.

Connect the Dots in Your Network

Pair individuals together who have similar interests, and make introductions via e-mail.  You may not benefit immediately, and that’s okay.  Then, think about a challenge you are dealing with and ask an existing connection for an introduction to someone who could help.  Jump-start the process by offering a small gift – such as a relevant article – to the person you want to meet.

Do the Layoff Test

If you got laid off from your job today, who are the ten people you’d e-mail for advice on what to do next?  Reach out to them now, when you don’t need anything specifically.  Have lunch, coffee, or even a phone call.  You never know what gold nuggets might come out of an informal conversation without an urgent agenda.

With these small, but significant, efforts you will build your network while also building your skills, profile and unique value proposition. No shoulder pads, feigning interest or whiskey shots required.

*Picture from Purdue CCO Career Blog