Is Networking Just Using People?

May 7, 2009

Earlier this week I was invited by my friend Jennifer Niehouse, owner of It’s So U! wardrobe consulting, to attend a networking event sponsored by the KC Women’s Network. At first, I was skeptical about attending any event with the word “networking” in it. I’m just as skeptical about attending “singles” events, but that’s another blog.

The presenter, Greg Furstner of Salezworks, discussed tips and techniques for productive networking. When he was finished speaking, I had to ask him, “Isn’t networking really just using people?”

I have been in situations where it’s obvious a person is only interested in talking to those in the room who can do him some good, or help him accomplish his own agenda. I’ve also seen and heard friends of mine who are work-from-home moms feel dismissed by people when they don’t have a “business” to discuss. That can be a huge mistake, from my perspective.

Greg Furstner clarified for me the difference between effective networking and just using people in a calculating way. As one strategy to getting to know a potential referral source or point of contact for networking, Greg suggests asking questions, which really just shows your interest in the other person. For example, asking a person, “What significant changes have you seen take place in your profession through the years?” would probably not make anyone feel used.


5 Responses to “Is Networking Just Using People?”

  1. Art Schlussel Says:

    Networking can be considered “using people” but so could be just about any other interaction when people are involved. Most exchanges involve somebody wanting something and somebody giving something. The something could range from a job to love, from good service at a restaurant to a smile. We constantly negotiate for what we want. Life is one big barter system. There is nothing wrong with that.

  2. Doc Michele Says:

    Thanks, Art, for reading and commenting on my blog. I’m all for bartering, which implies a give-and-take with a common understanding the transaction will benefit both people.

    • Art Schlussel Says:

      I am happy to do so. Never know what gem I can learn. I have your blog pop-up on my LinkedIn home page so I can keep current.

  3. Peter Zaballos Says:

    I think effective networking is about establishing a sincere relationship with someone around a topic that you find in common. That relationship might be temporal, or could be the basis for a more durable interaction, but it all begins and ends with being genuine and honest. To me that’s what inoculates the whole “networking” interaction from being manipulative.

    I’m a venture capitalist, and come across lots and lots of people who need something, or who could help me, and it’s astonishing at how quickly the wheat separates from the chaff when you view your interactions with people as different degrees of relationships, and then treat these as you would any other relationship. You won’t spend time with someone you don’t trust or who doesn’t treat you with integrity, in general, so why stray from that when interacting with people when you’re trying to explore an area you’re unfamiliar with, or connect with someone you don’t know directly.

    I find it fun and easy to connect people I know to other people I know, and that kind of networking is just simple and easy. Where it gets difficult is when the context is forced or formal, where you’re placed in a room full of people you don’t know, then to me it provokes the same feeling as speaking in public – uncomfortable and something you need to train yourself to get at ease with.

    I wrote a post on my blog about networking and touched on the topics above. Thanks for your post, you raise some relevant points about networking. My post is here:

  4. Doc Michele Says:

    Hello, Peter. I agree with this statement from your blog about networking, “Networking is about taking ‘what goes around comes around’ to heart, and focusing on what you give to someone, beginning with an understanding of that other person.”

    Thanks for reading!

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