10 top tips to never have to network!
The thought of ‘networking’ feels me with utter dread and makes me feel quite sick inside. The irony is that I have a reputation for being great at networking and for having a strong network.
That’s because, strange as this may seem, I never network. For me, the problem starts and ends with the word itself. The whole thing feels artificial and awkward. It conjures up images of pushy salespeople, disingenuous conversations and pretending to be someone I am not.
Instead, I focus on growing my friends and connections with people I like, one person at a time.
Very few people find walking into a room of complete strangers akin to a stroll in the park on a beautiful summer’s day. It’s daunting for most and damn right scary for some. So here are my 10 top tips on how to create new friends and connections in whatever new setting you find yourself in.
1. Be open and curious
Go with an open mind – be open to possibilities and be conscious about it. Be open to learning about other people. On the whole people like to talk about themselves, so ask them open questions – simply show interest. Don’t go selling – flip it and go instead with the intent to meet new people. Most, if not all the other people in the room are all looking to do the same, which is why they are there. So, they are open to learning/helping too.
2. So, what do you do/Or why are you here?
These are the two age-old questions for which you need to have an answer. It’s your moment to hopefully make a connection with someone who can help you get to where you want to be. For the women in the 2to3days community, it’s because you want to find a new job/client or are coming back from a career break. It’s therefore a good idea to have rehearsed how and why you want to introduce yourself that invites people to want to learn more.
3. Getting started.
This is often the biggest challenge. If I am going on my own, I quickly scan the immediate area that I find myself in, looking for either that person who is also on their own or a small group of people (max. 3) that appear ‘open’ by their body language. Then I literally ask them if they mind if I join them. Or with a big smile on my face, I will introduce myself and ask them an open-ended question like ‘what brings you here today?’. Be prepared to try a couple of times, sometimes it takes a couple of attempts to find the person who will involve you. This again is quite normal!
4. Work the room
Don’t do it!
The other bit about networking that sends people into a complete frenzy is setting the expectation, either by yourself or by others, that it’s all about ‘working the room’. We have all met that person who shakes your hand or talks to you whilst looking over your shoulder at someone else. It’s hideous and leaves you feeling very uncomfortable. Instead, set no expectation. Sometimes, you will end up talking to a lot of people and other times very few. It doesn’t matter, it’s just the way it works out. What is important is that when you are talking to that person, you give them your full attention and remember, be open and curious to learn, as you just never know!
5. How to move on
We have all got stuck talking to someone for either too long or who we have nothing in common with. That’s life but remember, it works both ways! So having a few respectful ways of politely extracting oneself is always handy. Such as:
• It’s been lovely to meet you and thank you for your time
• It’s been interesting talking to you, but do you mind if I go and meet some other people
• I have monopolized you for long enough, let’s both go and mingle
6. It’s about quality not quantity
It’s not a numbers game, so don’t put pressure on yourself. It’s not uncommon for me to walk away from events having not met anyone I want to follow up with and that’s OK. Other times, I will have a great time and meet a number of fascinating people that I do want to follow up with. The key then is to make sure you ask for their contact details, so ensure your mobile phone is charged because nowadays fewer and fewer people have business cards. Instead, it is now common practice to ask them to put their contact details into your phone, or to make a note of their name and contact them on LinkedIn. Then remember to follow up and do so immediately, whilst the conversation is still fresh in both of your minds.
7. Take a friend or a colleague.
Whilst it’s not always possible to take someone who might know people in the room, if you do it’s a great thing to do. Ask them beforehand if they can introduce you to people, they know and also flag that if you come back to them during the event, this is their prompt to know that you may need help in being introduced to someone else. And finally, I am at times hopeless at remembering people’s names. A lot of people are, and everyone makes allowances. Introduce yourself by name and don’t feel awkward about prompting others to do likewise.
8. Wear clothes and shoes that make you feel good
Seriously though, for us women working out what to wear or not to wear can be a nightmare. Nowadays, unless stipulated on the event details that the dress code is ‘formal’ the rule of thumb for both men and women is smart casual. Gone are the days that you must totter around in shoes that make your legs hurt and your feet kill. A smart pair of trainers is now regarded as acceptable business attire!
9. Time in and kissing frogs!
It takes time, there are no short cuts for anyone. It takes shoe leather and it’s one conversation, one cup of coffee, at a time and you need to be prepared to kiss a few frogs to find your prince. But you will, if you are prepared to put in the effort. The people who make this look easy, put in the effort. No one is immune!
10. 3 names please
The whole point of doing this is to grow the number of people you know. This top tip isn’t always relevant if the conversation isn’t flowing but if it is, ask them if there are 3 people that they could introduce you to. The worst that can happen is they say no. More often than not they won’t and immediately you have made a new connection either in the room or they may introduce you over email. You have to (we all do) ask the ask!
Join us! 2to3days is a professional community for women who want better work/life integration. Our aspiration is to build the UK's largest online community for experienced female professional talent. Register here: https://2to3days.com/candidate-registration