It’s easy to see why salespeople, marketing professionals, and recruiters benefit from networking events. These professions are dependent on relationships and uncovering potential business opportunities. After all, the marketing manager at Company A may really click with the Ad Sales Account Manager at Company B and boom – a deal is born.
Other than free hors de oeuvres and cocktails, why might someone who works in human services or healthcare benefit from attending events? If you’re attending networking events hoping to find the perfect business opportunity and connection that same night – you’re doing it wrong. When you’re networking, delayed gratification is the name of the game. There is no possible way it could be evident instantaneously how your relationship with someone may be useful to you in the future. It may be six months or five years before you ever call on a contact that you met at one of these events.
For example, as a counselor (my former career) I met many people in the non-profit arena. In the short term, these relationships helped me learn about more resources available to my clients. In the long term, these contacts have helped me locate candidates for unrelated jobs, provided new leadership and volunteer opportunities, and served as connections for new clients.
As I said though, you will most certainly be let down if you are attending networking events in the hopes of an instant reward. Instead, focus on actually building relationships with those around you. How did they get into their current role? What are they involved in outside of work? What brought them to the networking event you’re both attending?
For lack of a better source of imagery, think of networking like a garden. You have to plant a number of seeds and then work on cultivating, nurturing, and tending to your relationships to see any real benefit. Keep the cards of people you meet and immediately add them on LinkedIn; congratulate them when they change jobs; “like” their statuses; and touch base every now and then.
When it comes to networking, the old adage is true: you reap what you sow.
Written by: Hannah Barfield Spellmeyer