3 steps to loving networking (when it doesn’t come naturally)

First thing you should know about me is that I’m not a natural networker.

The idea of going to an event, and ‘working the room’ fills me with dread. It also feels a bit icky as it seems so disingenuous.

But I have discovered my own way of networking – and I actually love it!

So for those of you out there who are also not the naturally ecstatically excited networking social butterflies of the world, here are some tips on how to love (or at least feel more comfortable with) networking:

  1. Change they way you think
    • Yes, it’s all about mindset. What is your purpose when it comes to networking? I was told by someone ages ago that networking is all about numbers – eg how many business cards am I going to hand out at this conference. I found this approach really daunting and misaligned with my values as it seemed so shallow. BUT, then I started thinking about networking in terms of relationships, and that’s when things really changed for me. I started to think about networking as an opportunity to meet interesting people, make great connections, and learn about all the amazing work being done in the world. This is when networking became much more enjoyable for me!
  2. F2F events
    • I used to go to these big corporate events – at which I’d usually be the wallflower impatiently waiting for the speaker to begin (I came for the content not the socialising), dreading the breaks (except for the food which was usually pretty good), and typically leaving early (without tasting the wine at the after-event drinks). Most people came with their colleagues (rather than solo like me), and it felt very intimidating to break into these tight knit groups. BUT, I realised I was missing out on great opportunities to meet some great people. So I decided to try something different, and push beyond my comfort zone – just a little. I decided to get to events a bit early, find someone who was on their own, and go introduce myself. Later as their colleagues arrived, I was introduced to them and naturally became part of the group. Another option I found helpful was going to events that included a sit-down meal – clearly it’s far easier and much more natural to strike up conversation with people seated at the same table. 
  3. There’s always online
    • You don’t have to go to an event to network. If you prefer connecting with people one on one, then the internet is your new best friend. The other benefit is there are no limits with whom you can connect with (eg you’re not restricted to a room full of people in Sydney who happen to be members of the same professional association as you). Get out there and google, find interesting people doing interesting things, and send them a message. I have found social media (eg LinkedIn) and contact forms on websites really useful for this purpose. I’ve made some amazing contacts this way.

Remember, you’ve got nothing to lose! So go ahead, put yourself out there and expand your network (and your world)! Hit send on that email, accept that invite – you never know who you’ll meet or what you may learn ?

And if you’re looking for more tips on how to network to support your career then please get in touch https://hummingbirdcareers.com.au/contact/