Your network is your net worth. Knowing the right people can open doors and connect you to the right opportunities. And I’ll leave it at that.
To set things straight, this article isn’t about stating the values of networking. It’s more about recognizing the struggles people have when it comes to networking and some advice on how to manage the situation.
We all know it’s important, but for many of us, it can be quite difficult/anxiety-inducing. Especially if you’re an introvert like myself. You may not know it or I may not show it, but takes a LOT of effort for me to attend an event and start a conversation with someone. For introverts, being around a lot of people constantly or for a long period of time can be draining.
This is why I prefer 1:1 chats or smaller groups of people.
As an introvert, it can be extra awkward approaching people and trying to start a conversation. I’ve had discussions that were absolutely amazing, some that were so-so, and a few that were really awkward and either myself or the person wanted to leave the conversation right away but we weren’t sure how to do so. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and use that key phrase, “It was nice chatting with you and best of luck with everything. ” which is code for I’m now moving on to someone else.
I always compare networking to dating. You’re probably laughing either out loud or in your head because you know it’s a great analogy. Or here’s another analogy. As a fitness professional, I also compare your network to a muscle that you need to continuously build in order to make it strong and maintain that strength.
If you’re an introvert who dreads going to networking events, then read on to learn some of the tips that I have found to help me in those situations. Hopefully, it will help you too, and feel less intimidated by them.
Do Your Homework Ahead of Time
Be Social on Social Media
1. Like, Comment and/or Share Someone’s Content
I know liking is the easiest step because you don’t even need to think about it. Commenting can take a bit more effort, but helps you stand out more from the vast sea of reactions. I’ve made some great connections just by commenting on a post.
2. Let People Know That You’re Attending an In-Person Event on Social Media
People may think to themselves: Oh, so and so is attending this event. I should go too so I can catch up with them.
3. Join Slack Groups, Facebook Groups and Discord Groups
I find this is a great way to connect with people initially and participate in discussions if you’re not ready to do the online thing. You can also ask questions/answer questions as a way of starting a conversation.
4. Research People Online
If someone mentions they are going to an event, check out their LinkedIn Profile and other social media profiles. Then follow them on social media. I like to call this strategic stalking.
The whole point of this is that when you do meet them in person, it’s not as awkward. Who knows, you might end up having some common interests, which is why I also post here and there about my hobbies on LinkedIn.
At the Event
Don’t feel like you have to talk to as many people as possible at in-person events.
Have a goal to chat with a handful of people, but don’t be solely focused on the number. Even if you only end up having a meaningful conversation with just 1 or 2 people, consider that a huge success. Remember it’s all about quality vs quantity.
If there’s an opportunity, offer to connect them with people in your network. You never know who they might know.
After you’ve had a chat with them, suggest connecting with them on LinkedIn right then and there so you don’t forget. Based on your conversation, be sure to follow through on your offers, i.e. to e-intro someone, share a link to a resource, etc.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. But it helps to do your homework first.
And if you’re not ready to go the in-person route, take advantage of attending virtual events. Start conversations and make connections through these events first and then perhaps you can meet IRL eventually for coffee or at an in-person event.
Post-Event Action Items
If you saw someone at the event but didn’t get a chance to chat with them, be sure to reach out to them on social media.
Share A Post That You Attended The Event
I usually tag the people I had a conversation with at the event as well, so that people in my network will also know who they are and they may want to connect
Others who attended the event may end up seeing it on social media, potentially creating an opportunity to connect.
You Don’t Have To Attend So Many Events or Every Single Event
Don’t overwhelm yourself either by packing your day or week with networking. Listen to your energy levels. I’ve skipped out on a few in-person events lately and for a moment, I panicked, thinking to myself oh no, I’m missing out on an opportunity to expand a new network.
I quickly did a gut check and asked myself how I was feeling. I already had several 1:1 chats with people (both catching up and meeting new people) that particular week, which were all great conversations. I then realized that was enough and that I needed some time to decompress.
If you need to cut back for whatever reason, allow yourself the time and space to do so. When you’re feeling up for it, get back in the game.
It’s important to understand that you’re playing the long game with networking. You might not necessarily be able to help each other significantly right away but you can still support them by engaging with their content ( a like, comment or share goes a long way and is always greatly appreciated. Wink, wink).
If you’re an introvert, how do you approach networking?