One of the best possible ways to grow in your career is through networking. People make things happen; if I like you, I’ll want to make something good happen for you. It sounds like a win-win situation. However, for some people (like myself), the thought of networking makes them groan internally while reverting painfully back to the middle school levels of insecurity and self-consciousness. So what’s the best way to overcome this surge of terror whenever you’re heading to a cocktail party? You already know the typical tricks (memorize a list of questions, minimize the overwhelming factor by focusing on one part of the room). But I have a few tricks to add to that list that I’ve found reduce a lot of the anxiety and allow me to just enjoy the chance to get to know new people.
Here are a few tips for how to network — when you’re bad at networking.
First, go to events that interest you. This sounds simple, but it’s amazing how many people feel the need to go to networking events just to achieve some sort of monthly quota. If you don’t have an interest in what the evening is about, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel relaxed and eager to learn and more likely that you’ll be anxious and looking forward to going home to your couch and a glass of wine. Keep track of events based on your interest through Meetup, Eventbrite, and NetParty.
There are two common traits among people who are really good at networking: They’re able to immediately find a topic that puts the other person at ease, and then they’re able to remember that person. Networking is not all about meeting brand new people — more often than not, it’s about maintaining the relationships you form and gradually deepen it over time. Two tools will help make an initial meeting become a long-term connection: LinkedIn and Refresh. The first step is connecting with the person on LinkedIn, a network where you don’t need to know someone intimately in order to send a connection invite. Refresh is basically Gary from Veep in your pocket at all times; you can see public information about a person to give you a quick reminder of who they are, plus you can add notes to personalize the information you have about them. In this modern digital world, with the hundreds of people we meet every year, Refresh makes sure you’re able to remember the people you really want to know.
Not to be robotic, but: Make it formulaic. I recently stumbled upon IFTTT (“if this then that”). IFTTT is a tool that allows you to develop recipes (or formulas) that trigger something else happening. For instance, every time you add a new connection on LinkedIn, you can arrange an email to ping you a week later to invite that person for lunch or send them an article. There are an unlimited number of recipes to try out to make networking easier (and many, many great ones just to increase overall productivity).
What else would you add to the list? Share in the comments below!