For a long time, the thought of networking made me roll my eyes so hard I'd incite migraines. In fact, a friend jokes that my business card should actually read "Don't talk to me."
p.s. wouldn't that be hilarious? To talk pleasantly to someone for 20 minutes and then hand them that card?
But! Then I realized that:
a) networking is really just talking to people and making new friends, two skills at which I excel.
b) knowing lots of people = exponentially more business and career opportunities.
So, I decided to suck it up. And while I'm an extrovert, I'm probably 51% extroverted, 49% introverted. So I've got your back.
Here are my tricks for networking!
1) Realize that networking is really just making new friends
You don't have to introduce yourself by rattling off your professional skill set and where you work. Just talk to people the same way you would if you met them at your friend's barbecue. And if you don't like someone, you don't have to talk to them. If you don't like them, you're probably not going to want to work with them in any way, shape or form.
2) Be a helpful hooker-upper
View networking not in terms of what people can do for you, but what you can do for them. Who can you hook them up with? What advice can you give them? When you approach a situation with no expectations about what you're going to get out of it, you'll be a lot more relaxed. Also? It feels good to help people!
3) Stop worrying about seeming professional
I don't really think you need to worry too much about seeming professional. Underneath that business casual attire, everybody's just a person who checks Facebook too much and loves bad reality TV. Also: people appreciate candor. Of course, don't drop F-bombs everywhere and wax on about religion, but you needn't speak exclusively about "outside the box action items." At the last networking event I went to, my conversation topics included: the best thrift stores in St. Paul, the Tomboy Style blog, and Ukrainian wicker furniture. Seriously.
4) Give yourself a time frame/goal
If you really, really hate networking/meeting new people, give yourself a time frame or goal. "I only have to stay for an hour and then I can come home and watch Happy Endings." or "I just have to give out three business cards and then I can go watch that Katy Perry 3D movie by myself."
5) Don't burn yourself out
If you are a dyed in the wool, true blue introvert you need to know your limits. Meeting new people and networking are important. Maintaining your mental health is more important. Find a balance that works for you.
6) You totally, totally, totally have to return texts and emails
Like, really. 90% of success is doing what you say you're going to do. And when you fail to return an email or text (especially in a professional or networking situation) you've just marked yourself as unreliable. Just force yourself to do it.
How many of you are introverts? How do you go about networking?
photo by danielle molar, creative commons liscense