If you’re like me, networking feels shallow and forced and you’d rather not engage in it at all. But making real, genuine connections that always feels good. I’m inspired by meaning and connection. The possibility of finding these things gives me energy and purpose, a reason to come out of my shell.
For networking to be meaningful, it can’t be about how it looks or who you impress. It must be about how it feels. To make it worthwhile, you have to be intentional about what you are trying to accomplish. You want to build a network that you don’t dread following up with, doing business with or maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship. Make an effort to connect with people that you can actually relate to and build with. Don’t force a connection with someone because of their clout or status.
Perhaps you are an introvert like me and you are sensitive to people’s energy. You can use this to your advantage. Observe the environment and use your intuition to see who you are naturally drawn to.
I used to work for a financial services company as a relationship manager. I had to attend conferences and client events where everyone was talking about the stock market and the economic environment, neither of which I enjoyed talking about. I dreaded these events and avoided them as much as possible but they eventually became an integral part of my job. As I was forced to rise to the occasion and make the best of it, my experiences taught me how to network with confidence and make connections that were meaningful to me without sacrificing authenticity. If you’re naturally quiet like me, keep these tips in mind:
Focus on one person:
We thrive in one on one conversations. When you find an appropriate moment to start a conversation, start with the high level stuff, who you are and what you do. If your intuition led you correctly and you feel that you can vibe with this person’s energy for a few minutes, then you’re off to a great start.
Make your introduction unique:
You show people who you are by what you talk about and how you talk about it. Even professional connections can be meaningful and go beyond the surface. I always add something personal about myself in my introduction. This creates space and permission for the other person to do the same. I might say, “My name is Gina and I’m a relationship manager for such and such. I work with third party intermediaries and facilitate the process of getting our funds on their platforms. I have to say though, that my favorite part of the job is the personal connections I get to make and building relationships with people. Have you ever worked with us? What’s your favorite part of your job?” The point is to dip under the surface a bit. Feel it out. See how they respond and how the conversation flows from there.
Feel free to escape:
At any time, if you get the feeling that this is not someone you can have a meaningful conversation with, feel free to make a polite and thoughtful exit. Let’s say this is a person that you have some mission to talk to, something you have to accomplish. Be yourself, but keep it all business, get it done, and move on. Don’t feel that you have to indulge this person for long periods of time because this will just drain you. Only continue conversations that feel good.
Focus on where you shine:
Be selective about where you choose to network. In my example, I had to go to these events for work, I didn’t have a choice, so I learned how to make them work for me. But to the extent that you do have a choice, try to attend events that are for topics you are passionate about. There is nothing like passion to make a shy person open up. I can talk about hair all day, so if I go to a natural hair event, I’m guaranteed to be completely exhausted and drained when I’m done because I’ve talked myself empty. But it’s inspiring conversation so I’ll take that energy any day, as long as I can go be alone afterwards to reflect and recharge.
Get in the zone:
Your mindset before you go into the situation is extremely important. Many of us go in with negative self-talk circling around our minds. “This sucks. I don’t want to be here. I feel awkward. I can’t relate to these people. I can’t wait for this to be over.” But you have to go in with the mindset that by being yourself, you have value to add to your environment and your intuition will lead you if you trust it. Your intuition is one of your superpowers. Don’t be afraid to use it.
GG Renee is an independent author, a creativity coach, a feeler and an overthinker. She writes for women who crave honest dialogue and inspiration for the joys and challenges they face every day. Blog // Twitter // Instagram