The Awkward Networker
Being in recruitment for many years, you are trained to network from day one. Recruiters are salespeople in the way that they are selling a brand, a company, and a lifestyle. Be that as it may, I am just going to call networking what it is. A pain in the butt.
OK, I don’t really mean that, per se. Ask anyone who knows me; I can talk to literally anyone. In fact, when I was a kid my parents tell me I would have full-blown conversations with myself (I sometimes still do).
Networking is just this forced awkward situation where there are a bunch of people in a room, who are supposed to talk to each other about the industries in which they work, what’s happening in said industries, and how both parties could potentially work together. The fact of the matter is, I was at a networking event the other night, and I literally spoke to someone about how excited I am for Stranger Things to come back. For like a solid 20 minutes.
What I have learned over the years, after countless networking events ranging from bad suits and potato skins in a Sheraton lobby; to gazpacho and Goyard bags in a Soho loft, is that even though this sh*t is awkward, it doesn’t have to be.
I have come up with a few key tips/talking points/strategies to make this easier.
1. Don’t invite your friends (or really anyone you are tight with) to networking events.
I have learned this one the hard way. I know this one can’t always be helped, but if you can avoid it, leave the squad at home. This will force you to get to know other people in the room, and not just use the event as an excuse to catch up with each other.
2. Attend networking events relevant to you.
I once was invited to a Legal networking event specifically for employment law professionals. This was a real snooze fest for me because I really didn’t have much to talk to these people about. Yes, the idea is that people know other people, but you want to make sure there is a diverse crowd and that you, as well as others in the room, are really maximizing their time.
3. Know your agenda.
Why are you attending this event? Because your boss dragged you? Because you are looking for a job? You need to go in knowing what you want to get out of it. For example, I have been attending a lot of networking events lately to help promote my new business and meet people that can become contacts. If you know why you are there, it will make it easier for you to talk to people. Start by jotting down 2-3 questions you want to ask people, and things you would like for them to know about you in return.
4. Don’t drink too much.
This one I almost left out, but then again I have seen a fair amount of drunk networkers in my day. Guys, it just isn’t a good look. Period. At some point, you will see the person speaking about their bad divorce after one too many Sauv Blancs. Don’t be that person.
5. Make at least 3 new friends/contacts.
Set a goal for yourself when you go to the event of how many people you want to connect with. Make it a point to work the room, and when you engage with the group hone in on who you would like to get to know further. Maybe you are in need of a Graphic Designer, and you see there is one attending. Maybe you are looking for a job in Advertising, and you see several people in advertising are there. Make friends.
Networking isn’t always easy, but it is extremely beneficial. As you start to embark on finding a new career or passion, the more people you know, the better.
What are some of your favorite networking tips or success stories? Leave them in the comments!