Your networking efforts are suspect and mostly all for not… Sorry.
In the last 12 hours, I've had a few of confirmations that my view on this subject is way too solid. Let me explain…
Last night I got a hit from my guy Tim Kephart on Twitter asking if I wanted to catch the midnight release of the new "Clash of the Titans" flick. Tim is the owner and all-around head-bad ass at Graffiti Tracker. I'm working on a few small side projects with him and his team, but in the 2 hours of hilarity, bad jokes, a cool/weird convo with the people behind us about 'ton-ton sleeping bags' and ultimate Cracken-releasing, work came up only once as we parted ways and even that was a 5 sec mention of "let's get together next week".
After a long night of movie-watching and clock-defying, I wake and get me to my neighborhood Starbucks up at Countryside to pour java in my face and do a bit of mobile officing and shake the week off. I stroll in pass out a few polite head nods and head to the counter and proceed to hold up the line because my baristas love me. We talk movies, toss a few friendly barbs at each other and even discuss how one of them goes to my website to regularly check on what I'm up to. Nice. I still haven't ordered a drink yet and the rest of the line is actually laughing and smiling, not at all upset that I'm putting a lag in their coffee acquisition moves.
I move to find a landing pad in the java shop and I see a hand waving at me. It was Chris Kline, the amazing lady who gave me my very first internship 13 years ago in the architecture & buildings subsidiary of First National Bank - Omaha. But she had a funny look on her face—a sly smile that, even after all these years, I knew meant something. So I approach her table, where she is sitting with someone. I'm careful not to be too bold or rude, but then this person stands and faces me. My goodness! It was my first and most important mentor Fran Marshall, former Senior VP of First National Bank and current CEO of Girl Scouts. This woman single handedly gave me the most honest, caring and insightful advice that directly put me on the path I am today and taught me to have a very personal type of integrity when making career choices. As a young, ambitious employee of the bank, I was offered a chance to interview for the management trainee program that would have made me a full-on, money-makin' banker, and I passed with flying colors. But she knew me, she saw me for who I really was at my core. She took my hand, looked me in the eye and said word for word, "I know you and you won't be happy. Unless I get hit by a bus, as long as I am here you will always be able to choose your destiny with this company. So do what you love and if you change your mind we can talk." For this I will truly love Fran Marshall until my dying day. Back to current, we exchanged our new information, and—heart-felt hug—went our ways.
This turn of events all happened in a 12-hour period no further than 5 min away from my home and home-office. It's not an accident, though it does at times seem random. We are not our business cards, websites, email addresses and well-practiced handshakes. We are who we are in the moments that we are attempting to make real connections. Networking is an empty vessel without the substance of a genuine connection. Most business professionals and suits would disagree that you don't have to like the people you work with, but I say "bullshit" to that. There is no trust, no repsect, no real interaction and connection unless you are dealing with someone you have a "like" for. Hell, I even have enemies that have a quality or to I "like" and therefore I can respect there stance on some things. You will here me say it often; It is establishing the very real, very functional connection is the key to all interaction—business or otherwise. Networking gets you a few drinks, waxy conversation, a germ-ridden handshake and someones lame attempt at humor that is supposed to be a doorway to what… doing business with you? Riiiiight. Ok.
Plugging into a power outlet with no electricity flowing would prompt you to check another outlet, would it not? If our cable TV went out we quickly jump into technician-mode and begin checking the—altogehter now… CONNECTIONS! Think on that a bit.