The Purpose of Networking and Networking on Purpose

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘Networking?’

“I’m going to a networking event.”

“I need to expand my network so I’m going to a conference.”

“I hate networking.”

“That networking event was a total bust.”

These are some of the statements I’ve heard from colleagues, clients, students and entrepreneurs, and they always bring a smile to my lips.


Because they seem to presuppose that networking only happens at events, and that somehow it’s the event that is the magic button.

What Networking Really Is … and Isn’t

You network (and market) every day. And if you don’t, it’s time to start today.

Every time you are in contact with someone, it’s a networking opportunity…it’s a marketing opportunity.

And I don’t mean plaid-coated-used-car-salesman-in-your-face-sales-pitch (apologies to any used car sales men, and to anyone offended by my use of the male gender rather than the neutral sales’person’;-))

Networking isn’t about selling.

It’s about listening.

It’s about asking questions.

It’s about learning as much as you can from the other person and seeing if there is common ground, a possible touch point of commonality and opportunity for further engagement.

It’s definitely NOT about taking a stack of business cards everywhere you go (do you still carry print business cards?), barely looking someone in the eye, asking for their card as you hastily shove your card into their hand, then scurrying off to the next best thing. If someone’s running around trying to collect as many cards as possible, with no meaningful contact of connection: that’s not networking.

I read a statistic once that over 80% of all business cards collected at a networking event or trade-show are never followed up on.

And that’s probably because if you don’t know the “why” of why you’re networking – for what significant, beneficial difference or result for all parties – it might be a cool cocktail party, but it’s just that. An event, some fun, some beverages perhaps, some polite exchanges, but in the end… nada in terms of results.

And don’t forget the grocery store, hockey rink, auto shop, check-out line… the multitude of places you frequent all the time…they are all potential networking opportunities.

Networking on Purpose

You need to ask yourself: what’s the purpose of my networking?

Then network on purpose: with a specific goal(s), result and outcome in mind.

It’s not enough to show up.

It’s important to know, in a quantifiable way, what you want to achieve by networking.

Maybe it’s to meet 10 people in complementary businesses to chat about THEIR business, remember their name and then drop by their business to chat further.

You don’t launch into how great it would be to work with them. You just met them! The initial encounter is all about learning about them, visiting them (online or off), engaging them in further conversation and seeing where that leads.

Networking is not transactional. It’s relationship building. And you don’t build a relationship in an encounter. It’s nourished and nurtured over time.

So the next time you think about networking, think about this:

  • Why am I doing it?
  • What’s the intended result or outcome?
  • How will I follow-up?
  • How will I nurture and nourish that first encounter to become a relationship?
  • Where will I see opportunity that I don’t currently see or take advantage of?

And in this case, it’s not all about WIIFM… what’s in it for me?. Figure out what’s in it for them.

Final Thought

Why would the person you’re talking with, meeting with, engaging with want to continue building a relationship?

WIIFT… what’s in it for them?

When you meet someone else’s needs – provide a solution to their problem(s) – reduce their pain or add to their enjoyment – your networking will pay off in dividends.


The Purpose of Networking and Networking on Purpose — 9 Comments

  1. Nitwitting?

    I lub networking and no, I am not always purposeful. If there is food and drink, I’m all in.

    Most of the networking events I attend will only have 1-2 people I will do business with. However, the people I meet might know somebody I want to do business with; OR, they might be a perfect prospect for another department in our agency.

    To me, it’s all about meeting people and whether it’s business or not, you never know when you will be able to help each other, right?

    Is that shrimp I see over there on the buffet?

    • Hey Bill,

      thanks so much for stopping by & commenting. Like you, I take the view that you just never know where any networking interaction may lead – even if you only have a few connections at any given gathering (aside from getting some free food), you never know who they may know etc etc. – we’re only six degrees from everyone else in the entire world, right? In today’s hyper-connected world, maybe even less (or maybe it just gets faster…)

      anyways, thanks again for stopping by and commenting on Kaarina’s wonderful article & best wishes,


  2. You always make me smile Bill:) And hey! if being there for the food and drink and shrimp is what gets you there, then you’ve fulfilled your purpose for being there, right? Not being facetious…sometimes networking’s goal is simply to have fun, share and eat those shrimp. Nothing wrong with that if that’s your purpose.

    And I agree that every person we meet is a potential champion, connector, colleague, supplier, customer or friend…or maybe many of the above! So every networking “event”, whether official or standing in line at the grocery store or watching a hockey game (Yes, I said hockey up here in the Great White North:), it’s an opportunity.

    Nice to see you here: thanks for dropping by. Cheers! Snowshoes

  3. Kaarina,

    thanks so much for writing this wonderful article, it’s very much appreciated. This is a brand new site and to add your voice to the content means a lot to me as I know we share a lot of the same values & messages.

    wishing you all the best,

  4. For me, networking is all about listening and trying to figure out how I can be helpful to someone else in dealing with their obstacles or roadblocks.

    You have so many wonderful points, Kaarina and most of all I love- WIIFT and nourishing relationships. Maybe in the end, networking ultimately should lead to friendships and meaningful connections we can grow with.

    Terrific post, Kaarina!


    • Hi Terri,

      thanks for stopping by and commenting on Kaarina’s wonderful article. I agree with you entirely that networking is all about listening and though such a simple concept, it is an underrated skill and something very few people really do well.

      It’s crazy how hyper-connected the world is today but at the same time how that leads lots of people to take these connections for granted. I think every interaction is an opportunity, simple as that.

      Kaarina’s right by the way (as she usually is), I am delighted to see you here and read your comment 🙂

      thanks again, take care & best wishes,

  5. Thanks so much Terri, for dropping by and commenting. This is Alan’s new blogsite, so I know he’ll be delighted to see you here. We are birds of a feather, my friend: here’s to WIIFT. Cheers! Kaarina

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *