The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What’s the best way to make fruitful connections?” is written by Tricia Clarke-Stone, cofounder and CEO of Narrative.
Building relationships takes time—and creating a strong, responsive network takes a lifetime. With proof that healthy relationships are the keys to happiness in life, creating a resilient and deep network—rather than a wide, yet superficial one—is the key to a fulfilling career.
Is there a magic formula for networking success? I don’t think so—and actually, I’d contend that going into an event, even one specifically designed for networking, with a set agenda is the wrong approach. Instead, I look at every event with the intent to connect with people in general—without regard for the outcome. This approach has led to incredible wins in all aspects of life, and when your personal and professional lives intertwine as much as mine do, this is essential.
While networking, like any relationship, will differ for everyone, here is how I approach it:
People can spot a predator a mile away. I never go in to an event thinking that I’m going to close business. I try to be as authentic and real as I can with no expectations outside of putting my best foot forward. When others are pitching themselves to me straight off the bat in an obvious effort to build out their own network, it feels forced. I try to only consider value propositions when there’s an already-established sense of community. Be open to inspiration, and go in okay with walking away with nothing more than an additional friend or two.
Find shared interests, even if they’re outside of your realm of expertise. I am insatiably curious, so when I meet someone new, I often view it as an educational experience. For instance, I recently participated in a Marie Claire event for female leaders. During the program, I met a woman who works with Jigsaw, Google’s (GOOG) tech incubator that’s focused on tackling major geo-political issues. We ended up talking several times over the event—I was so interested in what she was doing and how she was thinking about these huge issues. I wasn’t thinking about business at all, but at the end of the event, she followed up with ideas on a potential project. It was only by really getting to know her—without any agenda—that those deeper connections could be made.
Network in real time
I don’t suggest going into a networking event and greeting hundreds of people with a pen and pad in hand. Growing your network really comes down to connecting with good people in a natural way. Knowing that, I trust that if I’m in good company, I’ll be moved to act in real time with people who share common values and are open to collaboration. The challenge is to be less about meeting people and more about knowing people, learning about their journeys, and seeing where they’re going. That’s how I make my connections meaningful.
I love being a connector of dots and people. I truly love to see amazing, smart, creative, and talented people win. So when I meet someone who I’m inspired by or impressed with, my initial inclination is to see how I can help them achieve their goals and who I can connect them with.
Your network is so much deeper than business contacts, and when you approach people with the intent to create relationships, build trust, and find shared interests, you are well equipped to develop a fulfilling and responsive community that will serve you—and that you’ll be delighted to serve—well down the line.