‘Do good’ schmoozing: how to network with maximum integrity
Is ‘do good schmoozing’ an oxymoron? Liz doesn’t think so. She believes that integrity is at the heart of all good networking. If you reckon networking has to be fake and unscrupulous, this post might be the push you need to get out there.
Until recently, I had a BIG issue with professional networking.
My issue was similar to how I feel about snakes: I’m fine with them existing, per say, but I also don’t want them anywhere near me – I thought networking was contrived, fake and, at worst, downright manipulative. Basically: the complete opposite of everything I wanted in my ‘do good’ work.
Then I realised that the ‘do good’ people I admire most* are absolutely AMAZING at meeting new people, sharing their work, speaking at events, working with the media and publicly appreciating work that they admire.
Gulp! The people I admire are amazing at… networking.
By observing the objects of my admiration (in a non-creepy way), I realised that networking isn’t a hindrance to working with integrity. Rather, integrity can be at the heart of excellent networking by allowing us to:
- Connect honestly with others.
- Be consistent and trustworthy.
- Share what we genuinely want and need.
- Really listen.
- Be able to accept and offer support.
So, how do we actually go about networking with maximum integrity? Unfortunately, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ (that’s kinda the point with integrity), but there ARE conditions that can help foster it. Here are 5 of them:
#1. Feeling like we belong
It’s far easier to network with integrity when we feel comfortable, safe and at ease.
Unfortunately, there are SO MANY ways to feel like we don’t belong in any given space, including social anxiety, discrimination, inaccessibility (like having no lift and no accessible toilet) and everything in between.
Are there ways you might feel like you belong? Small steps could include bringing a friend to an event, emailing the organiser or volunteering to give out snacks at break-time.
For those of us who DO feel like we belong, how can we make things more comfortable, inclusive and accessible for others who don’t?
#2. Knowing what ‘professional’ looks like to us
In the days of 9-to-5, professionalism looked like punctuality, politeness, suits and not talking about how we watch The Santa Clarita Diet in the bath on Friday nights (just me?).
So, what does ‘professionalism’ mean in the age of casual work attire, four day work weeks and the ubiquitous presence of social media? If standards of professionalism have loosened, it’s up to us to decide what ‘professional’ looks for ourselves. What feels appropriate to you? What feels considerate to those around you?
For you, professional could be a leather jacket and swearing in some situations. For me, it could be a three-piece suit, flight mode and radical honesty.
#3. Not talking ourselves down
Ah, self-deprecation. It’s humour, armour and people-pleasing all in one. It’s like a Swiss army knife of… low self-esteem. Ouch!
I’ve stopped self-deprecating talk at networking events. Why? Because it’s not being honest. It’s downplaying my own awesomeness so that people like me and find me more approachable.
We don’t have to extol our virtues endlessly, but if we want to network with integrity, we have to be honest about our failures AND our strengths. Are you with me? Let’s own it.
#4. Knowing what we have to give
Do you have the desire and capacity to help relocate 98 giant weta on Sunday at 5am? Fabulous!
Does your queer sci-fi novel book plan allow you time to speak at that conference? Great!
Would you like to be a Whale Literacy trustee or do you desperately need more time to cuddle your dog?
If we get real about what we truly can give to others’ projects, campaigns, events or challenges, then we can support the work we want to, when we want to.
If we’re always pushing past our limits of tiredness, hunger, thirst, or energy, then we’re going to burn out like a sofa at a Dunedin keg party. Not healthy, not great integrity.
#5. Expressing our appreciation
The networkers I admire most are secure in their own vision, goals and processes, so they have the energy and perspective to celebrate the work of others too.
When they get awards, they acknowledge everyone who contributed to the work. When they see a great campaign, book or cause, they share it!
Expressing our appreciation doesn’t have to be false, contrived or for personal gain, it can simply be recognition that we’re all in this ecosystem together, and that genuine appreciation and realistic positivity benefits us all.
I don’t know about you, but I’m raring to network! Are there upcoming ‘do good’ events or training in your area? It doesn’t have to be fake – tap into your integrity and push yourself out of your comfort zone!