It turns out we’ve been networking wrong all this time.
When you think about yourself and who you really are, are you a complex individual who has passions, emotions, beliefs and aspirations? Or do you think about yourself strictly as whatever title is written on your business card? Do you introduce yourself like:
“Hi, my name is Max. I’m a writer for an online magazine.”
Or is it more natural to introduce yourself like:
“Hi, I’m Max. How are you today?”
If you are more than what your position at whatever company is, then why do you introduce your friends and colleagues at events purely by what they do? A typical introduction goes something like:
“This is Jon, he’s the chief marketer for this startup called (insert name).”
“This is Emily, she’s a financial adviser over at Wells Fargo.”
Pretty standard, right? We live in a culture where at functions, business or otherwise, we identify people purely by what their job is, what they do or who they work for. It makes sense to us — at a business function, we are business people — but we still cling to that habit wherever we go. We now prioritize our careers over who we really are.
Blogger Cadence Turpin touched on a similar point in her piece about introducing friends at parties, but the cultural value extends to how we identify ourselves and our friends wherever we are. We should instead be introducing our friends and associates like:
“Have you met my friend Jon? He’s one of the smartest guys we have and he taught me everything I know about marketing.”
“This is one of my good friends Emily. Our startup wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for her.”
Introduce your friends and close associates (which in a startup is pretty much family) for the people they actually are, not just the title on their business cards. As a side note, you don’t want to exaggerate your friends either — if you say they are smart, hilarious or talented, that better be apparent, otherwise you both will look bad.
In entrepreneurship and business, unless you work for a huge corporation or popular company, titles are irrelevant — it’s what you have accomplished as well as your genuine personality that gets people to want to work with or even invest in you, and the same thing applies to your business partners.
Introductions like this force you to think about what your friends and work associates actually mean to you, as well as complimenting them and reminding them why they are important to you. It’s a culture of thinking about ourselves and others as people again, not employees.
In a society where we value work and careers over who we actually are, being genuine has never been more necessary.