Networking. It’s a word that strikes fear into the hearts of introverts. The idea of going to a room full of chatterboxes and trying to make small talk can be daunting, to say the least. Networking is a soul-sucking experience for many of us.
Can it ever be so enjoyable that makes you want to stay there all night? No chance.
So what can people who hate networking do to make the experience a tiny little better? By finding the right events to attend? By trying to become a better communicator? Let’s see if there’s any way that makes networking work for us.
What Do Networkers Say About Networking?
So people network to build relationships with others in the same field. By meeting new people and getting to know them, you can develop strong professional relationships that can benefit you both now and in the future. So what kind of benefits does networking give you?
Help You Advance Your Career
It can help you advance your career. You can talk to people in your industry and let them know what you're looking for. These connections can provide valuable resources and advice when needed and can help open doors to new opportunities down the road. You never know when someone might have an opportunity that's perfect for you.
Help You Grow Your Business
If you own a business, networking can help you find new customers and partners. It's also a great way to stay up-to-date on industry trends and learn about new products and services that could benefit your business.
Expand Your Knowledge
Networking can also help you expand your knowledge base by learning from others in your field. When you meet new people and hear about their experiences, you can learn new information that you may not have been exposed to before.
Find New Opportunities
Networking can also help you find new opportunities, whether it be a new job, a business venture, or anything else. By meeting new people and developing relationships, you open yourself up to new possibilities that you may not have otherwise had access to.
Make You Happier and More Fulfilled (Really?)
Meeting new people and building relationships can help improve your mental health and overall well-being. Networking can also introduce you to new hobbies or interests that make life more enjoyable.
So they say.
We do know networking is essential if you want to be successful in business. It's a great way to meet new people, learn about new opportunities, and build important relationships. Blah.
Loud and Fake
But you see networking as phoney and often insincere, loud and fake. You may have no problem talking to strangers, but if you don’t make an interesting conversation in the first 30 seconds, they will soon walk away. Good networkers sell themselves to each other well, and you’ll be left either alone or stuck with some weirdos who have no regard for others. So what’s the point?
Is Networking Necessary For Your Business?
Well, yes and no. Networking should certainly improve your business like the benefits that I listed above. You make your good personality known by good people, so they know you can help them and they can help you.
But if you force yourself to attend the events that you hate, knowing that your dread of networking outweighs the benefits, what’s the point of running your own business?
You may be missing out on opportunities to collaborate or opportunities to cross-selling, but it may be worth putting your effort into something else that you’re good at and actually enjoy doing instead.
Can You ‘Overcome’ Your Fear of Networking?
But if you feel the other way round - you still want to overcome the dreadful feeling of networking and get the real benefits from the experiences, here are some things that you can try.
Focus On The Positives
Keep telling yourself about how meeting new people can help you grow professionally and personally. Wherever happens at each event, you’re determined to enjoy it and take away at least one good thing from it.
“If you believe, you can do anything.” So take away any negativities in your mind about networking events.
If you find a friend or colleague who is also attending the event, you may want to agree to meet up with them beforehand. But do you really think that will help you feel more comfortable going into the event? The purpose of networking is to meet new people, and your friend won’t be there to stick with you. You might as well attend alone, don’t rely on someone to cover up your shyness.
Dress for Success
You may not impress anyone with the smooth talk technique that you don’t have, but at least you can impress with a fabulous outfit that makes you look and feel confident.
Be Able To Explain
This is an obvious one - practice how you explain your business to others.
- You must be able to say what you do for a living within 20 seconds (this is important - if you can’t explain, your business is a failure). Practice this.
- List up the questions people may ask you and practice how you answer them - you may want to ask your friends to come up with some unexpected questions.
- List what you’re looking to take away from the particular networking event so that you can tell them what kind of help you need.
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Be Polite and Respectful
Another obvious one and you are probably prepared to be already. Beware of someone who talks about controversial topics or anything that might offend others. Joining their insensitive jokes and being labelled wrongly by others is the last thing you want.
Be an Active Listener
Listen to what others are saying and ask follow-up questions. Good people will appreciate your genuine interest in them and their work, and it'll help create a connection. Show your willingness to help. If you cannot come up with a way to help them, say so.
Someone who’s not in your industry, for example. You sell digital products and the person you’re talking to is a florist who’s suffering from a loss of sales. While you may want to help them, there seems little you can do. Then you can ask them if there’s anything you can do for them. Any collaboration ideas that may improve their sales, never mind yours.
Walk Away From Selfish Ones
Networking is a two-way street, you know this, and they should know this too. Some are only interested in promoting themselves, while some others counter-promote themselves against them by being louder. Don’t get into that game. Just walk away.
Be Prepared To Leave at Any Time
You don’t have to stay until the end of the event. If you still think it’s not working out for you, don’t hang around unnecessarily. When you find yourself left alone in the corner of the room, that’s when you are exhausted from reaching out to others. Just leave.
Now, as you may know already, virtual networking is quite different from networking face-to-face because nobody can interrupt you when you talk/write. You find fewer people who babble, and you won’t offend anyone if you switch yourself off all of a sudden (“bad internet connection”) so you feel you have more control.
There are benefits of networking online, whether you like it or hate it. For example;
- You're not restricted by geography - You get to meet people who would never have travelled outside their country. So you’re required to be more open-minded. From the purpose point of view, you have the potential to reach a much larger audience than you would if you were only networking in person.
- Cost-effective - Because you can do it from the comfort of your own home.
- Time-saver - Because you can do it at any time of day or night that suits you.
- Fewer small talk occasions - Online networking tends to be a more purpose-driven approach. No drinking or canapés. Perhaps partly because of the delayed reactions of attendees online, the environment makes it harder for chit-chatters to get carried away.
- You can be more direct - Unlike face-to-face networking events, people tend to read the room less online. So you may find it easy to respond without sugarcoating each time.
How To Determine When To Leave an Online Networking Event
The good thing about virtual networking events is that you can leave whenever you feel you’re wasting your time. If you think the event host is talking too much rubbish for too long, then don’t hesitate to leave. You can be honest and say the event wasn’t for you, or you can lie (not feeling well, etc.)
Be careful not to make a hasty decision though - there’s always something that you can take away from even if you don’t think you’re enjoying the experience at the time.
Do Introverts Prefer Writing Or Speaking?
Introverts often prefer to write when they have time to think about what they want to say beforehand. This gives them a chance to organize their thoughts and choose their words carefully, which can be more challenging in a spontaneous conversation.
Writing also allows them to communicate without the pressure of immediate interaction. They can take their time crafting a response, and they don't have to worry about being interrupted or feeling overwhelmed by too much stimulation.
But of course, that’s not always the case. There are times when speaking is preferable for introverts. If they need to share information quickly or if they're trying to build rapport with someone, the face-to-face conversation can be more effective than written communication. After all, it’s not about introverts or extroverts. Some find that speaking allows them to better express their ideas and connect with others on a deeper level.
“I Hate Networking!” This Introvert Says.
The good thing about working from home is that you could take your own initiative at all times if you wanted to, no matter what others say. This independence can be very liberating and empowering, especially if you've been in a situation where you felt like you had to conform or fit in. Networking can be time-consuming and stressful, and it's not always necessary or relevant to what you're doing.
Yes, it can be a great way to meet new people and get your work out there, but you don't need it. You can do just as well by working on your own and promoting your work through other channels. You can still be very successful with zero networking.