The Top 3 Levels of Networking

If you're not enjoying the people you're meeting, the people you're meeting probably aren't enjoying you either.

If you're like most, you genuinely enjoy meeting new people. But you have a hangup about networking. You've seen it done in ways that come across as fake, desperate, or pushy, and you're not about to be "that guy." Fair. Don't be that guy. Unfortunately, your networking hangup is probably holding you back from career growth.

Your hangup is likely caused by the "negative residue" that certain kinds of networking produce. I found that the levels of motivation described in the book, The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership are a perfect parallel to the levels of networking.

In it, authors Dethmer, Chapman, and Warner Klemp articulate the 5 levels of motivation that leaders typically use with employees:

Level 1: Toxic Fear: Blame, shame, guilt

Level 2: Extrinsic Motivation: Money, title, the corner office, other perks

Level 3: Intrinsic Motivation: Learning, fulfilling purpose, autonomy

Level 4: Play: Creativity, allowing the expression of “genius” in the world

Level 5: Love: Appreciation, joy, admiration

The authors state that the first two levels of motivation leave a negative residue. We know this intuitively. “Leaders” who try to motivate through fear or through external rewards alone cultivate disengagement, low-learning, and resentment. These in turn block collaboration, enjoyment, and innovation.

The authors' model of the levels of motivation is an ideal representation of why the perspective you bring to networking is so critical. Most people know that networking is important to career development and to job transitions. It’s the way the vast majority of people land their next role. It's also the aspect of career development that people seem to avoid the most.

If you're not enjoying the people you're meeting, the people you're meeting probably aren't enjoying you either.

There are ways to network that feel forced and exhausting, and there are ways to network that will feel good to you and all you meet. Happily, the way that feels better is also more effective. Energy comes first in networking and career transitions. Using the model from Conscious Leadership, it looks like this:

Level 1 Networking from a place of fear or shame = negative residue

Level 2 Networking because you want to get something = negative residue

Levels 3-5 Networking from learning/fun/appreciation = engagement/collaboration/creativity

The results of networking from levels 3-5 are exactly the kinds of things that inspire people to share information, make introductions, or design a position for you.

The desire to avoid negative networking residue and the reluctance to show your unique brilliance (to put yourself out there) can easily prevent you from networking at all. Networking, though, is just relationship-building. If there’s someone you’d like to connect with, or some organization you’re interested in engaging with, check in with yourself. If you’re coming from a place of curiosity, fun, growth, or appreciation...go for it. You will create a positive impression and feel good about it, regardless of the outcome you experience.

Case Study of Networking Levels 3-5:

J is attending a conference in a field that's new to her. She is trying to make a big career change and has no direct, paid experience in the kind of work she wants. At the event, after a really interesting presentation, she musters up the courage to talk to the speaker. She shares what she learned from the talk (Level 3), and what she appreciated about the content (Level 5), as well as how it will make a personal difference to her because of the work she’s really interested in doing (Level 4). That conversation with the speaker began a series of events that resulted in J landing her ideal role. Not just an ideal role, but an ideal role despite having no direct experience in the space, and being in an extremely competitive market.

This is a true story, and it is also an absolutely standard story. These are the kinds of things that happen for people who approach the world from levels 3-5. When you approach your career transition, your networking, from curiosity, appreciation, your genuine self...things go well. And results you never anticipated can materialize.

The opposite is also true. When clients spend time telling me how certain people, events, or groups won’t be helpful to them, I immediately flag the conversation for deeper coaching. They could be right that the person or group may not be helpful in their search, but the most effective job seekers never make those comments. They simply don't spend time verbalizing or defending why they're not networking with the people or organizations they've identified to be lower priority. Instead, they're exploring their curiosity, putting themselves out there, and enjoying others.

If you want to network more, consider focusing instead on curiosity and love. Love is on a continuum.

Appreciation, celebration, support...these are all love-based and can be expressed with professionalism and simplicity in words like, "Well done."

Curiosity is also a form of love. Curiosity says, “I see this specific part of you and I’d like to know are worthy of being known more deeply.” What a gift to give someone in your networking. They may be inspired to respond with collaboration, creativity, and engagement.

If you want to inspire clarity in yourself, and different responses from that you can do the work you really want to do, I'd love to chat.

In your corner,


Emma Garrett is an Executive Coach, helping high-integrity leaders position themselves for what’s next in work and life. If you're ready to write your next chapter, consider scheduling a free call to share your situation and goals.

Emma Garrett Coaching