If you are searching for a new career, you must market yourself just as someone markets their business. After all, you know your product (which is yourself) better than anyone else does. Your intent should be for people to know you, your talents, and if you can perform in a new opportunity. You cannot do that without marketing, and networking can be the easiest and most reasonably priced activity that you can pursue.
When you attend any networking event, your purpose should be to meet as many other people as you can, chatting briefly with each to learn something about them. Hopefully, you learn enough to be able to set a follow up meeting where you both can learn more about each other. As Bob Burg teaches in Endless Referrals, “People do business with, and refer business to, people that they know, like, and trust”. This holds true for everyone who is looking for a new career, as well as someone looking to gain business for their company.
You meet people everyday with whom you will never do business. Neither of you has anything that either of you needs, or will use. However, you still could refer business to each other, given the correct circumstances. You cannot do that if you do not know each other, have not determined if you like each other, or decided if you trust each other. You need to meet and get acquainted to determine your relationship.
When I establish a networking relationship, a partnership so to speak, we have a vested interest in each other’s success. Therefore, we do what is needed to guarantee that mutual success. We would not have that level of partnership without ever meeting with each other and getting to know each other. We would not have reached that level if we had prejudged each other at the beginning when we first met.
Never, ever prejudge anyone. Neither should you forget that assumptions and first impressions are very often incorrect. Look past the initial impression and get to know the person, draw them into a conversation, and find out what is below the surface. If you are not interested in the person’s business, find out about the person and their beliefs. Other people have a 250-person sphere of influence with which you would like to connect. It may not be who someone is; it may be whom they know that you need to meet.
When you meet someone at a networking event, you do not know anything about them. You do not know what they think or believe, you do not know whom they know, and you do not know how open they are to giving referrals to their networking partners. However, you would really like to be on the receiving end of those referrals, wouldn’t you? Get to know them and maybe you will be; you never know until you try. It may not happen quickly, but it will happen.