Why Friendship is the Key to Networking in the 21st Century

Writer Katie Kohler shares her take on developing authentic professional relationships.



Adobe Stock/Inti St. Clair

I only wanted some cheese,” I thought to myself. “So what’s all this talk about reviewing my insurance policy.” When the self-proclaimed serial networker cornered me by the charcuterie, I wondered if I was doing this whole networking thing right. Was it OK for me to pop a piece of cheddar in my mouth?

We were raised to stay away from strangers. But things have changed. Thanks to Uber, we’re getting accustomed to taking rides from, well, whomever. And through the miracle of Airbnb and similar lodging websites, we routinely stay in the homes of people we’ve never met.

Then there’s the evolution of networking from its thinly veiled sales-pitch beginnings to a more authentic, sophisticated form of socializing and personal branding. “If you can identify commonality between two people, you can stick out more,” says Networking Concierge’s Ashley Owens, who—along with Purposeful Networking’s Jennifer Robinson—has totally changed my view on something I once loathed.

According to LinkedIn, 85 percent of all jobs are filled through networking—and I’m inclined to believe that percentage. When you network the way you should, you’re essentially “interviewing people you’d like to work with, connect with, or even grab a beer with,” Owens says—even if they may not be occupying an office or cubicle next to you anytime soon. “Don’t go to a networking event for yourself—it’s a marketing opportunity, not a sales one. Referrals will come if you’re helping people at the front end of the conversation, rather than the back end.”

That explains why I connect more with those who compare notes on favorite restaurants, as opposed to favorite LinkedIn connections. So what do BYOBs and baseball have to do with business?

Everything—especially when you consider one fundamental rule: People do business with people they know, like and trust. 

So, hang onto that sales pitch. I’ve got cheddar to nibble and friends to make.

Have some networking advice? Share it with Katie Kohler on Twitter @kkohler1129. You can also connect with her on LinkedIn, but she’d much rather meet for coffee.

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