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Networking vs. Mindful Connections

In business school, there is always a strong emphasis on building and using your network. All my life, I have only made connections with people I feel I would get along with, which frustrated my bosses and other people trying to teach me how to network. However, I have long considered networking for the sake of an ulterior motive slightly manipulative and therefore inauthentic.

I’ve started doing networking again, in an attempt to find champions for my internship search, and it’s been a lot more enjoyable this time around. I don’t feel inauthentic because I do authentically want to learn more about their backgrounds, and I’ve met some cool and helpful folks that I would like to keep in touch with. Yet I still feel a bit overwhelmed by meeting so much new people in a short amount of time.

I think a lot about how to maintain these new connections. Are they mindful? Or was my old approach to meeting new people more mindful? This definitely feels more intentional, but the old friends I made seem to have built into more natural friendships, or is that only because of the ease of developing relationships in the context of a fixed situation (school, work)?

For people that I do not have bonding opportunities with on a regular basis, how do I nurture these relationships? How do I even know that they want me to maintain these relationships, especially if they started off as formal meetings to gain more knowledge? It is doubly harder in today’s remote world. At least in person, you can kind of sense if the other party likes you or not. It’s harder for me to guess via phone call.

What I’m doing so far is just reaching out and seeing if they reach back to me. If not, after a few tries, I assume the interest to maintain the relationship is not mutual, and I just drop all contact. Time will tell if this is actually the most useful method.

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