Networking as it is can be a tricky road to navigate. You have to analyze your approach; when to do it, what to say, how to follow up, and a myriad of other details. In the favorable times of the young entrepreneur, that anxiety might be turned up a little bit. Why?
Because most entrepreneurs are single, attractive, charismatic people.
They have to be in order to find angel investors, capture and hold the attention of their target audience, and implant themselves in the right social circles. There will come a time that you’re in situation where you’re communicating with an attractive person that, business notwithstanding, you may have a romantic curiosity about.
I think it’s natural that when you’re attending a networking event or a subject-themed conference, you’re going to gravitate toward someone that you also deem as attractive. The game of entrepreneurship is very competitive. For men, we want to show we have the biggest stick and the most pull. Women are attracted to hubris and the evidence of influence. So when it comes to the approach, both genders have to ask themselves “what are my expectations from this meeting?”
The issue of blurred lines came up over on Harvard Business Review’s blog network. In the article titled “Are We Networking, or Is This A Date?”, the author mentioned something I never thought about:
But what does “professional” mean any more in a world where casual Fridays are more like casual Monday-through-Fridays, and beer carts and whiskey nights pervade office life?
With the rise of self-created job titles, networking tends to be very relaxed. I know whenever I’ve approached or been approached about an opportunity, I’ve usually linked up with the person at a nearby bar for drinks. Additionally, I’ve never networked with a woman that I didn’t already have some type of connection to; either we knew some of the same people or she was brought specifically to me by someone I trust. The world of entrepreneurs is also more gregarious. It’s commonplace for a guy to ask a woman to a 4 star restaurant on a Friday night to network. Although based on conversations and observations, it’ll undoubtedly lead to digging into each other’s romantic lives if there’s an attraction.
The wrong way to go about networking with the opposite sex is to not have a clear reason why you need to interact with them. Are you in a position to actually assist that person? Are there going to be opportunities to overlap your social circles? Is this a relationship that can put you in front of a new audience or make you money? If the answer to those questions is no, then any communication that you have is simply one dimensional. I mean, let’s be honest here, if you approach someone professionally because you’re attracted to them, any business you have is going to be contingent upon personal feelings.
The right way to go about networking with the opposite sex is to be about your business. Period. Whether you’re single, dating, or married, as an entrepreneur, your business is your baby. If you take it seriously, your constant objective is going to be about growth and progression. Despite your attraction to a fellow entrepreneur, you should approach them ready with specific questions that you know they offer guidance or advice on. Between men, some of the biggest deals happen in the most casual of settings; cigar bars, the golf course, or the VIP airport lounge. Some deals are even closed strictly through email and phone calls. In vague professional dealings with the opposite sex, I feel like you need to keep the meetings as platonic and casual as necessary without seeming cold or boring.
My personal opinion is if helping you isn’t going to help me, we’re not networking. What do y’all think? Where is the line crossed between networking and getting too personal?