It’s fair to say I didn’t really ‘love’ networking for a long time in my early working life. It felt forced, intimidating and like a lot of pressure. Back then I’d have hugely appreciated a few ways to see it differently. If you feel that way too I hope this helps you to see networking with new eyes:
- At its very essence networking is simply about people connecting. Strip off the suits and professional veneer and everyone in the room, no matter how senior or junior, is looking to create, build and nurture relationships.
- So there’s nothing to be intimidated about, because you know how to connect with people. You do it every day with your friends, family and colleagues. And this is really not that different. The key to great relationships is being interested in the other person, caring, asking good questions, and listening well. Same goes for networking.
- What’s great about asking questions and listening well is it takes the focus of you a little. Which is good if you’re a little unsure or anxious. By the time the focus is flipped back on to you you’ll have warmed into the conversation. But remember, you’re still both people so there’s really nothing to worry about.
- One of my favourite lenses through which to consider networking events is that relationships aren’t one hit wonders. They are a lifes work. And they need cultivating. When you walk into an event you’re not aiming to make best friends – give yourself a break! Which means when you leave, you’re work isn’t done. Be in touch with contacts, be helpful and reciprocal and don’t be afraid to call in favours and stay in touch.
- In one of the most memorable networking events I went to we were overtly encouraged to ask for what we needed, and offer some ways we could help the person across the table in return. It’s bold but why not open up that conversation with your new connection. “How can I help you” or “this is what I need”.
- Consider what help you need or opportunity you’re after before you go to the event. If you have a clear ask you’ll be much more likely to get the help or connection you need.
- Networking events aren’t the only place to meet people. You meet people EVERY DAY. So every day there is a chance to meet, connect and network. FUN!
- And finally. It’s true – you might have a really awkward conversation that doesn’t flow and feels excruciating. Trust me, we’ve all been there. If you don’t like networking this might be one of the things you’re afraid of most. But equally possible is the really incredible connection that blows you out the water and becomes an invaluable work mentor or the link to your next role. Sadly you can’t have one without the other. Networking is a lucky dip.
Over to you:
For me, shifting the perspective to networking being about real relationships makes it SO much more fun and interesting. What’s helped about this blog for you?
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