Don’t waste time on “networking.” Be nice instead.

A fake smile and a fake interest won’t land you quality leads

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Some seven years ago I attended a meetup focusing on digital nomads. I approached one of the speakers after the event and asked a few questions.

Imagine Your Connections Are People

He mentioned I need to fill some paperwork. This is to let someone manage your affairs when you are abroad. I asked if he could send me a template and he agreed. I thanked him and we didn’t have much more interaction afterward.

This template proved very useful to me when I went on my first trip as a digital nomad.

Last month I got a message from the speaker. He recalled our meeting and mentioned the templates I got from him. Only after this introduction, he mentioned that he is currently looking for a person with my skills.

Hi Piotr,
We talked a few years ago after the digital nomading event. I remember sending you some templates of notarial authorizations, because you needed then to start traveling :)
I am writing to you today because we are looking for…

The introduction made all the difference. Without it, the message would look like any other job proposition. Cold, automated, boring. But because it was indeed personal, my reaction was different.

I wasn’t talking to a recruiter. I was talking to a human being. More than that, I was talking to someone with whom I had a personal connection.

The offer didn’t interest me. Usually, I’d refuse. That’s a normal reaction when dealing with recruiters. But with human beings, we act differently.

I decided to share this message in the communities I am active. By this, I wanted to help someone who treated me as a fellow human. This was my means of saying “thanks for remembering me.” If someone can recall our short talk from seven years back I feel an obligation to help the best I can.

Have you noticed what happened here?

We didn’t do any proper networking. We didn’t chit-chat and then exchange business cards. I asked him for advice and he helped me. Fast forward a few years and he needed help so he asked me. But not like a “connection” in a “network”. He asked as a person.

Automate Your Workflow, Not Your Relationships

Being on LinkedIn I get lots of messages and requests each week. Some of them don’t even match my skills. To most, I reply with a short and polite “not interested”.

But sometimes there are messages that make me want to connect to the person messaging me. They make me want to hit “Reply” and write something more than a simple “no”.

These are the messages that treat me like a human being. Sadly, I don’t get them more often than a few times a year. The rest? They could as well be written by robots.

Are We Human?

So next time you attend a meetup don’t think about “adding valuable connections to your network.” Life is not a game. Collecting points on LinkedIn or Facebook won’t make your life better. Try being nice to people. Ask them about their interests, find some common ground you can relate to.

If you care about connecting it’s better to find some authentic link between you two. Or several. You like cats? You went to the same school? You’re both fans of Siouxsie & the Banshees? Start your conversation with things you have in common to show your human self.

And never mention “networks” and “connections” in your messages. You are writing to people. Try to remember this! If you don’t know how to deal with people, read Vanessa Van Edwards’ book “Captivate.”

Oh, one last thing. When you start cultivating your relationships you can expect ROI. They’re just like investments, you see.

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