I recently took some time to reflect on my approach to networking and I found some startling consistencies. Let me know if this sounds familiar to you:
An interesting or unique networking opportunity crosses my path, and I commit to going. “Wow,” I think to myself “I’m really getting the hang of this!” Using advice I offered in a prior blog post, I reach out to my colleagues and attempt to convince as many of them as possible to attend the event with me.
However, as the date of the networking event draws nearer, I realize my work obligations (and those of my colleagues) have increased and availability on my calendar is becoming scarce. Then, the week of, a few days before, or even the day of the event, I think “We can’t possibly attend that given our workload!” and we bow out.
So, what is the problem here? Why does it feel like I’m sabotaging my networking efforts? I gave this some consideration and came up with my next “Networking for Introverts” tip:
(Drum roll please…)
This is easier said than done. It’s not as though we can ignore our job responsibilities or our commitments to our clients. It’s important, though, to also make networking a key priority, and approach it with the same thoughtfulness we use in our customer interactions. Especially for introverts, networking requires attention and consideration.
Consider this recent example of networking failure:
I and a few coworkers planned to attend a networking opportunity that seemed really interesting in its content and we were excited to flex our networking muscles. However, we hadn’t realized that the networking event would take place after a day-long client interaction. So when the day of the event rolled around, we quickly agreed that the timing wasn’t right and we would skip networking all together.
How could I have set myself up for success here?
Well, if I had looked at my calendar more thoroughly, I would have noticed a few things. First, I was interested in the networking event mostly because it was geographically close to where I was working that day. While not a great reason, I thought that would be enough for me to feel compelled to attend. Obviously, it wasn’t and now I know that: proximity is not enough of a motivation to overcome my introversion.
Secondly, I should have paid more attention to what type of work I was doing that day and considered how I would feel after my client interaction was complete. For many introverts, spending a full day in a client-facing opportunity can wear you down.
And finally, with the networking event scheduled to begin very quickly after I was finished with work, there was no time available for me to “recharge my batteries”. Going from one engagement to the other already felt exhausting to me, and the event hadn’t even happened yet!
If I’d been more thoughtful at the get-go, I would’ve realized that, for an introvert like me, committing to this event was setting myself up for failure.
So, what can you do to set yourself up for success?
- Play to your strengths. Schedule networking events and relationship building opportunities at times that work for you. If you feel most energized in the morning, attend networking breakfasts or use that time to meet with new people over coffee. If you’re a night owl, attending events later in the evening may work to your benefit.
- Think strategically. Pay attention to what other obligations and responsibilities will take up your time. Is there anything scheduled that will require a lot of energy from you? Do you have enough time to regroup and feel energized before heading in to the networking event?
- Be creative. Given that we can’t often turn down client work to position ourselves to be primed for a networking event, find opportunities that are inherently interesting to you. One of my colleagues once mentioned that for her to consider a networking event, she “wants to have fun.” It was a good reminder to me that these events don’t have to be torturous. Find networking opportunities that revolve around something you are passionate about (think about volunteer work, art events, etc.). If you’re actually excited about the event (and perhaps can even unhinge it from the pressures associated with “networking”), this can be energizing rather than draining.
What other suggestions do you have for ensuring commitments to these types of events come to fruition? Let us know in the comments!