Connecting Beyond the Resume

This past year I attended an event for the University of Florida at the state capital to meet with political leaders alongside other leaders at my University to “mingle” and “network.”

I’ve been to the capital many times, but never have I had the chance to go through the senate chamber and tour and really see where Florida’s political history is based – it was cool!

Following the tour, was our “networking session” with the political leaders and University hire-ups – all the people you hear about, but never get the chance to meet. So, as a freshman getting to attend an event like this I was pumped.

To my left and to my right are people mingling and networking, if you can call people listing off their resumes and talking about accomplishments, “networking.”

I talked with a couple fellow students there, who are awesome, but I could never get passed the surface of their lengthy resume. Even with the politicians it was hard to even have a conversation. It was forced, uncomfortable, and awkward.

I left the event feeling discouraged with the fact that I didn’t really get to know anyone new. I could tell you some people’s GPA, their campus involvement, for the politicians I could tell you how much they love their job – but never why. I left knowing no one new. And I went to a networking lunch. Ironic?

The Age of Networking

We live in the age of “networking.”

There are social media websites designed for networking, pre-professional classes dedicated to teaching this idea, and mountains of books by authors who get paid to coin a term for “building relationships.”

This term seems to be thrown around as the token business model. That it’s “always about who you know, not what you know. While I believe, there is some truth to that statement, I think we have either a misunderstanding of what networking is or we just simply do not know how to execute it effectively.

Here is where we have lost it, we are not connecting with one another beyond the resume. We go into social interaction with a selfish intention – how can I impress? What can I gain? What connections do they have that will help me? We are slow to speak, but I can tell you that we are not quick to listen. It’s just a fact. It’s our default setting to be selfish thinkers.

Networking vs. Storytelling

Have you ever been in a situation where someone admires you? Maybe they ask you a bunch of questions about your life? Following the conversation, how did you feel? Great, I would assume.

We as humans love to talk about ourselves. You probably finished that conversation and didn’t even realize you never once asked that person a question, I know I’ve done it. But, even though you did not once get to know them, you like them. You like what they are about. By them getting the chance to get you speaking, they succeeded in a relationship with you.

Networking as I am seeing it being defined in the business world is basically listing off a resume in the most “humble” way possible with the hopes that an executive will be impressed. This way of communicating very rarely gets anything done. I mean, how would you like it if someone just talked about themselves all the time?

I think that if we changed our action from networking to storytelling, our outcome would be a lot more successful. From truly engaging in conversation – asking questions – getting the other person to talk about themselves. This way, you leave the interaction with facts. You know for a fact that Jim loves to go to the beach with his family every Sunday and somehow you can use this information of Jim’s story to impact your own.

If we focus on the story – not on the person’s name, accolades, or connections – we build a relationship. This is how we change not only hearts, but minds. This is how we succeed.