I have a bone to pick with networking.
It started early on in my own career. I’ve been a TV reporter for almost eight years and have met thousands of people along the way. I love what I do, but I’ve seen how people treat me differently once they learn what my occupation is and what they could possibly get out of it while “networking.”
When I moved to my current city almost six years ago, I was looking to make friends and meet other young professionals in the area. As an extrovert, I was excited to go to these events, but time after time, the people I tried to talk to didn’t seem interested in carrying on a conversation with just Kara. Once they learned that I was Kara, the TV reporter, they would seemingly get some type of revelation and change their tone.
Now, I couldn’t change how they reacted, but I could do something myself to make sure others I network with didn’t leave feeling the same way. And so, as a Catholic and someone who tries to see the dignity of others, I decided to take a different approach to the thing so many people believe they need to advance their careers: networking.
Here are three tips that I use when trying to connect with others:
1. Connect through passions and interests.
Finding shared interests is one of the easiest ways to begin relationships with others. When I meet new people, I try to find something we’re both interested in. I report on a number of stories, but some of my favorites are stories that can help the community, about issues such as homelessness, hunger, or equity. As a result, I’ve built relationships with people in nonprofits and higher education, as well as those who are actively involved in their community. Being able to bond over shared passions allows us to work together to make our community a better place, and this has helped sustain the relationships over the years because it’s beneficial for all involved.
2. Expand your networking opportunities beyond events.
Networking doesn’t just have to happen at networking events! One of the best places to build relationships is at your own parish. My parish is full of people who are involved in the community, from doctors and teachers, to judges and politicians. We might see the same people at Mass, but sometimes we don’t know what they do for a living. Something as simple as staying after Mass to talk with others can help you meet someone who could become a mentor for you. The relationships I’ve made at my church are some of the strongest and some of my best stories have come from people that I share a pew with on Sunday.
3. Check in with people.
Communication is key in all relationships. While I’m not telling you to text or email your connections every day or week, it’s important to not be present only when you need something. Asking about someone’s family or wishing them a ‘Happy Birthday’ shows people that they matter to you. If you are looking to build relationships instead of networking, you need to be there for others.
Last but not least, remember that the best relationships are not transactional, but rather transformative. We live in a world where people always want something from others, but networking doesn’t just have to be about getting a new job. It can help us learn about different careers and industries, and how to be better employees, friends, and community members.
We can learn how to network better by remembering that behind every business card is someone who is loved. And by building better relationships, we can transform the world into a better, more dignified place.