Those who say networking is a piece of cake are either extremely extroverted people, who thrive on social connections or don’t have the slightest idea about what networking really means. More often than not, you will hear people complaining about how difficult or artificial networking is, but like it or not, in today’s world, it has become a necessity.
There is an abundance of research that shows networking can be a pivotal element in someone’s professional life. If done right, it can lead to better business opportunities, faster job advancement, broader knowledge of the industry, as well as becoming a greater authority in the field.
If you are on the side of the spectrum that believes networking is daunting and does not add any real value to your work, maybe you need to change your approach and reconsider the way you view this social activity. To help the introverts, and not only, overcome their reluctance to network, we’ve identified 6 changes they need to make in their strategy.
Make learning your primary goal
Many people see networking as something they are compelled to do for professional reasons, but don’t try to see the reasons behind it. Some psychologists refer to these individuals as having a prevention mindset, which often makes them come off as inauthentic when networking, and as a result, they did it way less often.
Those who see networking as a development opportunity, understanding how it can help them accomplish professional growth, are far more open-minded and curious. They are referred to as having a promotion mindset, succeeding in networking because they see it as an opportunity to better themselves and learn new things.
This tells us that, if we approach networking with a different mindset, understanding that it is an opportunity for growth, both on a professional and personal level, it will not be such a tedious task. Focus on what you can learn out of the experience, rather than what you can directly achieve.
It’s about quality, not quantity
What most people do when they attend events that provide an opportunity for networking, is they spend all night handing out business cards to anyone they speak with, including the bartender. This is not only going to waste valuable time, but also make you come off as a bit desperate. Plus, you won’t get anything out of it. Even if you spent hours designing your business card mockup, to make it look impeccable, chances are, if people don’t remember who you are, it will end up in a box full of other business cards, or lost in someone’s pockets.
Networking is more about quality than it is about quantity. If you give 5 business cards to people you actually had a real conversation with, you will have much more to gain, than if you just started handing out 100 business cards to anyone that briefly greeted you.
Network based on common interests
One of the reasons networking seems so artificial, is because people don’t focus on creating genuine connections with those present. People are not supposed to connect with everyone, which is why it is better to have one genuine conversation with a person, rather than 15 shallow ones.
Networking is not only an opportunity to meet potential employers or business partners but to also build friendships. But this can only happen if you engage in genuine conversations with those sharing the same interests as you. So, next time you are at a networking event, why not focus more on finding a connection with those you talk to, rather than just handing out business cards and hoping for a call.
Always give something back
Again, I am not referring to business cards or phone numbers. A large number of people that go to networking events are there scouting for a good opportunity to make themselves heard by the right people at the right time. Unfortunately, this approach is flawed, because you end up going from one place to another, without any real value.
Instead of doing this, why not try to give something back to people? Anything from giving a piece of advice to making someone laugh can work to your advantage and ensure people remember you.
If you focus more on what you can give to others, rather than what you can get out of a situation, networking will start feeling less selfish and much more enjoyable.
Do it for a higher purpose
Most of the time, people network for the sake of networking, or for their own personal development, which is why everything feels so inauthentic. If you find a greater purpose to do this for, something bigger than yourself, you will end up being much more genuine.
For example, in a study conducted by Cornell University, they discovered that women were having difficulties talking to the press at events and conferences. This happened because they often feared that putting themselves out there may come off as too selfish. But when they were reminded that women in business are not very well represented in the media, giving their actions of talking to the media a higher purpose, they had a shift in perspective and started being more open.
Don’t forget to keep in touch
If you end up talking to a few people and exchanging phone numbers or email addresses, make an effort to actually contact them in the near future. It does not have to be for a business meeting, or because you need professional advice. Ask them if they are free for lunch one day, or if they would like to grab a drink after work. This will show people that you are indeed looking to make genuine connections and that you are not only trying to climb the ladder of success.
Another way to keep in touch is through social media. Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn are great platforms where you can stay up to date with what people do, even if they are miles away, and they are often used as recruitment tools as well.
Networking can often seem artificial and daunting, but with the right approach and a more positive mindset, you will be able to discover the many benefits that it can bring, not only to your professional life but to your personal one as well.