The Power of Relational Networking: Building Meaningful Connections to #MAxYourPotential
“If we create networks with the sole intention of getting something, we won’t succeed. We can’t pursue the benefits of networks; the benefits ensue from investments in meaningful activities and relationships.” —Adam Grant
When most people hear about the importance of networking, they think about just increasing their LinkedIn connections, but networking is much more than just a number. Adam Grant, a renowned psychologist, reminds us how important it is to engage in relational networking rather than just transactional.
As someone who has had experience attending, hosting, and speaking at several professional workshops and recruiting fairs, I have often seen students walking up to guest speakers and recruiters after the workshop in hopes of joining their company. They usually start off by introducing themselves, and saying something along the lines of “Does your company have openings for me?” While this approach isn’t entirely bad, this is what transactional networking looks like. It often ends with the professional/recruiter meeting many people in a short period of time all having the same conversation, which leads to them being forgotten.
On the other hand, relational networking works differently. Rather than short-term relations, relational networking focuses on building authentic, long-term relations which benefit both people. This approach involves focusing on getting to know the other person and talking about their interests and adding value to their life. In the beginning, you may think “How can I add value to someone’s life who is a role model to me?” and that is completely normal. It’s important to remember that adding value to their life doesn’t have to mean offering something tangible such as a job or referral. This can be as simple as giving them insights from your perspective on their situation or offering your thoughts on something they discussed. You can even recommend them shows, or books that you think they might like.
One way to shift from a transactional relationship to a relational one would be to get to know each other through their interests, such as sports or hobbies like bowling or hiking. By engaging in these conversations where you find common ground, the other person is likely to remember you when an opportunity comes up. However, this is not where it ends.
It is important to keep this relationship going and to follow up with them, whether or not you work with this person. This can be as easy as reaching out to them once every few months and meeting over coffee or even just checking in to see how things are going. Ultimately, adding value in these types of relationships is about showing that you’re engaged and invested rather than just looking to gain something. Besides focusing on relational networking, it is also important to think about who you’re networking with. As college students, it is important to not only surround ourselves with like-minded people but also with someone who is in a position where you see themselves in the future, a position where you are working to reach. Networking with others in new environments can help you elevate yourself truly #MAxYourPotential.