While the past few posts in the series have focused on what I would consider “failed” networking attempts, in the true spirit of development it’s also important to consider those opportunities that have gone well and the lessons learned. And…despite being my own worst critic in regards to networking, there actually have been some successes.
One key takeaway from those positive experiences? Well, that takes us straight to this post’s tip:
Maybe this is what makes networking so difficult: there is no foreseeable near-term win. Sure, you may meet numerous people in a very short amount of time, but the relationship in its infancy can feel superficial. We leave these engagements feeling as though we’ve accomplished very little.
However, if we view networking as the doorway to facilitating valuable, long-term relationships, it’s only to be expected that the benefits from networking take time.
One particular example stands out for me:
Every year, the division of psychology I’m associated with has a conference. While my attendance at this conference is haphazard, in 2014 it was held in Honolulu, Hawaii. For many obvious reasons, I felt compelled to attend, and planned an extended vacation with a few family members.
Fortunately for me, I had a direct flight and landed in Hawaii as planned, with no travel problems. Unfortunately for my family, they were delayed in Chicago and would not arrive until the following day. I was on my own.
I boarded a shuttle to my hotel and, likely due to my anxiety about being in a new place entirely solo, started talking with the person seated next to me, Mark. It quickly became clear we were both in Honolulu for the same reason, to attend the conference. Further, as we continued to talk, I found out he was applying for a position in Chicago, my hometown. We exchanged information, and connected a few times throughout the conference.
Fast forward a few months, and Mark reached out to me. He had received the position in Chicago and was hoping to meet up to learn about the new city he found himself in. It was a great opportunity to catch up, and I was more than happy to show him around a few popular watering holes.
Although we communicated infrequently throughout the next year, Mark again reached out to me about participating on a panel discussion for this year’s conference. Not only was this a great opportunity to meet up with Mark, it also provided me the chance to meet other people on the panel, and contribute a portion to the conference.
By the end of the weekend, Mark had introduced me to several individuals and we had a renewed commitment to meet up more regularly over the following year.
So let’s take a step back and recognize a few things here:
- Building relationships takes time. It’s unrealistic to expect immediate returns on our networking investments. The first meeting with a new connection is only that: the first of many. This is a useful mindset to be in as we embark on further engagements to build relationships with others.
- Think outside the box as it relates to networking. When I boarded that shuttle to my hotel in Hawaii, I wasn’t thinking about whom I could meet or share my expertise with. Often times, the interactions that have the most impact are those that happen outside the traditional “networking events”. This is especially important for introverts, who tend to shy away from forced or manufactured networking sessions.
- Lastly, and most importantly, while it may go against the nature of an introvert to reach out and keep in regular communication with a number of people, if no effort is put forth, we can hardly expect results. In this case, I have to admit I was lucky Mark was persistent in staying in touch with me, but I didn’t hesitate to stay engaged.
I’m not suggesting my fellow introverts do a complete 180 and keep in contact with everyone they meet. But it is important to think about those individuals who you actually enjoyed getting to know and actually keep in contact with them. With Mark, he was a peer in my field who I was able to connect with over the work we did, as well as the city we lived in. This made our future interactions easier and much more enjoyable.
I challenge you: Are there people you’ve enjoyed interacting with, but haven’t talked to in a while? What type of regular communication effort do you believe you can commit to?