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Embrace "NATO": a strategic approach to networking and beyond

By Rachel Rozen, founder of Connection Catalyst

Networking and dating might seem worlds apart, but they share a crucial strategy that can significantly enhance your success in both: Not Attached to Outcome (NATO). This concept is inspired by dating coach Erika Ettin, whose insights can be followed on Instagram @alittlenudge, for dating and relationship advice.


What does NATO mean?

At its core, NATO isn’t about being indifferent but about engaging in conversations without the pressure of a predetermined result. It’s about valuing the process over the outcome, a strategy that Erika Ettin emphasizes in her dating advice and that’s equally applicable in the world of networking.


Applying NATO in networking

Imagine you're aiming for a position at Google and arranging a networking chat with an employee. If you enter this dialogue solely hoping it will lead to a job offer, you're setting yourself up for potential disappointment. Here's why:

  • The person you’re talking to might not be the hiring manager.

  • They may not have a direct influence over hiring decisions for your desired team.

  • This interaction is not an interview but a preliminary conversation.

So, what should you anticipate as a realistic outcome? A successful networking interaction, especially an initial one, should ideally yield what I call the "Three I’s":

  • Shared Information: Gaining valuable insights about the company or industry.

  • An Introduction: Being referred to another contact within the network.

  • An Invitation: A follow-up meeting, entry into a relevant community, or simply another casual meet-up for coffee.

By focusing on these achievable outcomes, you maintain momentum in your networking journey, similar to how one might progress from a first date to a second.


The journey over the destination

The NATO approach teaches us that each interaction is a step toward your ultimate goal, your dream job. Just as in dating, where not every date leads to another, in networking, some connections might reach a dead end. However, unlike in dating where you might "ghost" someone, in networking, it’s essential to maintain professionalism. The key is to continue nurturing the relationship, by finding ways to be helpful or staying in touch without expectations.


Why embrace NATO?

When you're not solely fixated on the big "OUTCOME", you bring your most authentic self to each conversation. This authenticity is the foundation of building trust and meaningful connections. In both dating and networking, being genuine not only makes interactions more enjoyable but also increases the likelihood of achieving your long-term goals.

By adopting the NATO philosophy, you can approach networking with a fresh perspective, making the process as rewarding as the potential opportunities it may bring. This mindset not only alleviates pressure but also fosters a more natural, genuine and sustainable way to build connections that matter.

This is just one of the many ways I help clients build their network and get better at networking. To follow along with my networking tips and tricks, sign up for my newsletter and as a thank you, I’ll send you my Networking Tracker. 


Rachel Rozen

Rachel Rozen, founder of Connection Catalyst, is a networking virtuoso who transitioned from a Chief Customer Officer role in food tech to empowering professionals with networking skills. After a “learning” sabbatical in 2021, Rachel met over 300 individuals in a year, discovering her passion for building meaningful relationships. Through Connection Catalyst, she offers pragmatic networking coaching, helping professionals at all stages overcome their fears, build confidence and cultivate valuable connections. Rachel's unique approach transforms the often "icky" process of networking into creating "sticky," long-lasting relationships, fostering professional growth and success.

When not teaching networking hacks or presenting to teams, Rachel enjoys reading (100 pages/hr), cheering for the NY Mets and Syracuse Orange Men’s basketball, and spending time in the kitchen whipping up recipes.



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