I’ve met many people who think networking is a chore; it is just something they must do for success and the “right” connections. Others may find networking easy but the resulting interactions superficial.
Perhaps, a change in mindset to a relationship networking approach can resolve both dilemmas.
This is networking your way, as your authentic self in any situation, including those settings you seek to best present the real you. In other words, don’t force it; often, trying too hard backfires. People can always sense when you are putting on a front – it makes the connection harder to make.
My friend Brenda told me she loathed networking events, but felt she must attend them to grow her business. She said she was uncomfortable in a loud and gregarious group and had difficulty initiating conversation. She labeled herself an introvert and decided introverts were just not natural networkers.
Sadly, that is an all too common misperception. I see this occur more frequently, depending on the industry. Those in technology roles echo this aversion and sometimes mistrust of networking. I often say that introverts are actually better suited for networking, since they are often far better listeners than extroverts.
I suggested that Brenda follow her own rhythm, instead of emulating her extroverted colleagues. If she felt tired after an extended evening event, she should chat with a few key people, and then, head home. If she didn’t feel like talking in a particular group, she should listen, and then, follow up with people after the event and suggest a one-on-one meeting in a more comfortable social situation.
She was a bit stunned, but even more relieved to realize that it was acceptable to listen rather than talk or to leave early. She said, “No one ever told me that.”
I explained she was not completely off the hook.
”It is important to stretch yourself and gain comfort with things that may not come naturally, but you don’t have to overdo it. Just be yourself, and you will find the connections will come easier – and last longer.”
Learn more about Michelle Tillis Lederman in her upcoming HIMSS Women in Health IT webinar on Nov. 15.
Michelle Tillis Lederman, named one of Forbes Top 25 Networking Experts, is an author, speaker and ICF certified coach. She founded Executive Essentials, which provides custom leadership and communications training and coaching programs. Share your thoughts and connect with Michelle on Facebook, Twitter or visit her website.