What’s Your Networking Spirit Animal? Take this Test to Find Out!
Before we get to the test, let’s talk about why networking matters. You know it does, right? If you are reading this, you are a future (or current) business leader. You have big aims and lofty goals. You want to change the world. And if that’s the case, you know you aren’t going to do it alone.
Nothing happens in this world without collaboration, and the people you work with will have just as much (more?) impact on the quality of your life over the next, say, 30 years, as will the type of work you end up doing. Because let’s face it, even if you’re doing tasks you find enjoyable, working towards an outcome you find meaningful, if you hate your boss, you’re still going to have a miserable life.
Relationships really matter.
They are a key input into happiness and to opportunity. Check this out:
What my highly scientific and statistically significant graph here is meant to symbolize is the fact that the more you advance, the more you depend on others. The more people you manage, the more people have to trust you to do that job well. As your salary and the downside risk of your failure grow, so does your need to be relationship savvy. People need to believe in you. They need to trust you. They need to like you.
So you would be a fool not to start right now building real relationships with the people around you: the people you work with, the people you do your MBA with, all the people you meet in the admissions and recruiting process (even if you don’t end up going to their school or working at their firm), and pretty much anyone you meet in a professional or pseudo—professional context.
Sidebar: a good friend of mine from b-school is an absolute ninja with the dating-professional bait and switch. She turns first dates into career-long corporate contacts. It’s an art unto itself. Whether you decide to try that particular strategy or not, there is no question you need to get great at relationships.
Relationships Start with a Meet Cute
Meet cute is the Hollywood term for that first scene when the romantic leads make eye contact. There have been many great ones in the history of cinema. And also probably in your life. People happen to be everywhere, so everywhere sets the stage for a possibly meaningful first encounter. But for an adult professional, the number one place your meet cutes will happen is at networking events. That’s why you go to them and will continue to do so for the rest of your life. Because they are the best way to create social churn and meet new people that you would otherwise not encounter in your day to day routine.
But we’re talking about actual relationships here. And that means that when you are trolling networking events, you’ll be best served with the right approach.
So let’s take the test and see what yours is.
Imagine you are at a networking event. Maybe it’s a corporate sponsored event or the cocktail hour at a career fair. Jot down your answers to these two questions:
- At this event, do you consider it your primary objective to find the people that can help your career and make a memorable impression on them?
- Are you confident in your ability to talk about yourself professionally to important strangers?
Be Honest, no one else will ever know your answers.
OK, now using your answers to those two questions, check out this matrix and find your networking spirit animal.
Are you the potted plant? If you don't feel confident, you might end up hovering around, clinging to the hors d’oeuvres table, hoping someone will come along and sweep you into interesting conversation, or, worse, hoping they won’t. That's no fun at all!
Are you the donkey? This is the guy who's on a mission to find the important people and impress them with how awesome he knows he is!!! He's the one who rolls into a group conversation and throws down his elevator pitch, thinking he’s come off as savvy and poised, but really coming off as, well, you know the other word for donkey... I know you've seen this guy. Please don't be him.
Are you the mosquito? If you try to impress people when you're not feeling confident, you might end up seeming like the mosquito. This is the person who keeps trying to inject meaningful points into the conversation but fails to go with the flow and connect with others. He’s trying hard to impress people, but can’t manage to make more than a dull irritating buzz. Again, please don't be this guy!
Or are you the panda? Does everyone love you and are you the life of the party? (Why do we like pandas so much, by the way? It’s hard to say, we just do!!) That’s how people react to you when you have true charisma.
We've all felt super uncharismatic. But we've probably also had moments when we just knew that we shined. How can you get more of those?
Well, charisma is a function of aliveness, owning it, and having fun. Pretty simple really. You can do those three things, right? At a networking event, all it means is that you set your agenda aside, stay full present with the people you are talking to, own who you are (even your insecurity!) and then you just have fun.
The punchline here is that if you forget about trying to impress people and seeking only "the important people" who can help your career, and just make it your goal to foster a genuine human connection with everyone, you will both be more confident AND more lovable.
Ahhhh. Doesn't that sound so much better?
Check out this post for more tips on how to channel your inner networking panda (or monkey. Monkeys are charismatic too.)