How can I be a better networker when I don’t like to network?
As I write this, I plan to attend a conference later this week. There will be a few hundred people in attendance and, even though the event is still days away, my palms get sweaty as I think about entering a room of strangers and making connections. Do you know this feeling?
Many of us have social angst when we think about networking and wonder if there is value in spending the time. The statistics are clear: networking not only helps our careers, it enhances our happiness as well. That’s right – networking makes us happier. Cassie Holmes, author of The Happier Hour, offers robust data that shows human connection as amongst the top 3 factors that drive our happiness.
The importance of networking is also quite staggering regarding career opportunities. According to LinkedIn, over 80% of career professionals believe networking is critical to identifying and landing new career opportunities and 85% of jobs are filled through informal networking avenues. Yet LinkedIn also reports that 47% of professionals admit that they do not keep up with their contacts nor put much effort into their network when they are not job seeking.
As Mark Twain famously said, “When you are looking for a friend, it’s too late.”
Knowing how important and effective it is, how can we network without suffering?
How to network without suffering
It is important to recognize that all of us feel some level of anxiety when putting ourselves out in the world because our brains are wired to want to feel safe and feel accepted. The more exposure we have to external factors out of our control, the less confident we feel.
Once we recognize this dynamic, the best way to combat it is by having a strategic intention for our networking. We need to clarify what we seek to accomplish and with whom we want to do it. We need to identify the “give” and the “get,” as networking just for our own gain will ring disingenuous to others. Additionally, “giving” to someone in your network brings a pop of joy and causes that networking anxiety to evaporate. When reaching out, be sure to share the gist of how you believe you can be helpful to each other, so the other person will be motivated to join you in the endeavor.
The GIVE and the GET
To help you make your strategic intention, consider this list of things you could GIVE to your new or renewed connection:
- Be a mentor
- Gain a new perspective, learning
- Build someone else’s confidence
- Build someone else’s social skills
- Help someone become a stronger connector
- Help someone identify and gain new business opportunities
- Help someone make a new friend
- Help someone feel helped, lifted up
And a list of what you could GET:
- Develop my career, get mentored
- Gain new learning
- Build my confidence
- Find a new job opportunity
- Build my social skills
- Become a stronger connector
- Identify and gain new business opportunities
- Make new friends
- Spread help and kindness
Follow-up & Consistency
Once you make this initial effort, it is extremely important to follow up over time, so your contacts see and feel your level of commitment to them. Not everyone will want to communicate regularly with you, and that’s okay. A targeted handful of strong connections who know you, are willing to help you and whom you are willing to help can make a critical difference in your career, your learning and your happiness.
Are you ready to upskill? Reach out today to hear more about Noetic’s training and coaching services.