How to Succeed at Networking Without Really Trying

There are a variety things in this world of which I am not fond. One of the big ones is networking.

Interestingly enough, Peef's new job is ALL ABOUT networking and elbow rubbing. It's about knowing the right people and meeting more of the right people. It's about connections and communities and getting the right people together at the right time.

Peef is energized by the prospect of meeting new people every day. He looks forward to socializing and schmoozing and being an all around fun guy. On the other hand, just thinking about it makes ME very, very tired.

I'm the sort of person who has a few very close friends, and a great number of acquaintances. I tend to be a very loyal person, and I'm pretty dedicated when it comes to cultivating friendships. I pour a lot of energy into maintaining my friends, keeping contact with them, and creating quality experiences where we can interact, and grow, and change together. I have a much harder time when it comes to more shallow relationships.

On an intellectual level, I know that networking doesn't HAVE to be a stressful experience. Networking, at its best, is about developing relationships. It's about connecting and listening, and helping out. It's about exchanging value. And I'm GOOD at those things. So, why is networking so stressful for me?

I should be able to relax and enjoy the process of meeting new people, right? Yeah well, I can't relax.

I don't know these people. They don't know me. It's highly unlikely they're GOING to know me after a half-hour, or even 2 hours of quality contact. And, ultimately, I need to don the eternal smile and be interminably “nice” if my networking is going to be even remotely effective. The process is exhausting!

All of that said, it looks like my new life is going to include some networking events. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I'm definitely in need of some tips and tricks to keep the process from wearing me down.

Any great advice to share?


Rachel said...

I can only commiserate. I heard myself saying inside, "I'm not client facing, I'm behind the scenes." But soon afterwards, I realized that I have to be client-facing if I'm going to grow in my career.

I wish there was a book of 10 topics to small talk about. I think that could help.

Or at least a glass of wine. That helps.

JLQ said...

I'm the same way (big surprise!), but I've found that the thing that helps me most when having to network/small talk/meet lots of new people is asking questions. There's usually something pretty interesting about most people, and it seems as though lots of people (myself excluded!) really like talking about themselves. I've found that being curious and a good listener has helped me a lot in those situations (and I know you're a very good listener!!).