If you’re reading this post, let’s assume you suck at networking, or at least you think you do.
I’m not going to sugar coat it, you’re likely right. Maybe you’re shy, maybe you have nothing interesting to say, or maybe you’re just awkward as hell. It doesn’t really matter, but one thing rings true, and that is you wish you were better.
You know, deep down, that improving your ability to network and leave a positive impression can be hugely impactful for your career.
And again, right you are! So today, I’m here to help!
Now, I’m not a networking guru. In fact, I’d probably say I’d register as a 5 or 6 if I’m grading myself honestly on a 10 point scale. I, just like you, don’t feel like I have a magnetic personality that can take over a room. I have no hilarious anecdotes to disarm strangers with, and I have a strong case of imposter syndrome that prevents me from being totally fearless in social settings. So, fantastic news right? Here I am, saying I can help you, when I have just listed off reasons why I am ill-equipped to do so.
But fret not my fellow social-idiot! It takes a type of person, someone who isn’t a natural schmoozer, to seek out tactics and strategies that make these practices tolerable. I recently attended a networking event and worked on a lot of small strategies that can help you out in your next networking event.
Here are my 10 best pieces of advice for people who HAAAAATE networking.
- Lower expectations. Honestly, don’t get caught up in the “there has to be some return on this” mentality. Whether you gain a client or not, keep your expectations low. Enjoy the party.
- Change your vocabulary. I’ve always hated the words “networking”, or “schmoozing”. There is a disingenuous agenda built into those words. Change your vocabulary. Instead of “networking”, tell yourself you’re going to meet people. There’s no pressure in it.
- 3 second rule: If you make eye contact with someone, particularly in close proximity, smile, walk up to them, and introduce yourself within the first seconds.
- Show more passion than the person you’re talking to. If your goal is to leave an impression, always bring more energy than the person or persons you’re engaging with. You become the default leader of that group just because of your passion.
- Tell people what you can do, not who you work for. One of my pet peeves is when freelancers name drop their biggest client in an effort to impress. First off, eww. Secondly, why would you tell a potential client that you’re taken? Focus on what you specifically bring to the table and how you love collaborating with your clients.
- Don’t scan the room when you’re in conversation. Keep eye contact, but don’t be a psycho about it. Even if you’re in a 2 minute snoozer of a conversation, give that person the spotlight.
- Ask about people’s passions, not their careers. “What kind of projects do you have lined up?” “Any vacation waiting in the wings?”. If you want engaging responses, don’t ask cookie cutter shit about their job. Think original.
- Move around. Don’t linger, especially on dead conversations. If there’s nothing to talk about, just say “it was great meeting you, hope to see you again”. Then move on. Build momentum off the sheer volume of engagement.
- Don’t make the conversation transactional. Leave your business cards to the end. Demonstrate value and wait for them to ask for your information.
- Go Alone. Sounds scary, but seriously. If you go with a friend, you just hang with your friend. If you go solo, you’ll be so terrified of the “stand in a corner alone” syndrome, that you’ll force yourself to engage and socialize.