23 Aug Why Professional Networking is as ‘On Trend’ as Mullets and Legwarmers.
Professional networking events … the very words can send shudders down many of us but before you come up with an elaborate avoidance strategy here are some points and survival tips to consider.
Within my professional practise, I refuse to use the word ‘networking’ it takes me back to 90’s and 00’s events – forced, synthetic environments with middle aged ‘posturing’ men who would made a peacock look shy!
Professional networking events in the traditional sense are often pointless, why would you attend something without purpose and under duress? Simply to collect a handful of business cards. You are a time poor busy professional.
It is well documented (thank you Darwin!) that we are social creatures ‘by nature’ but as we move further away from daily (face to face) interaction are we becoming a world of electronically interfacing robots? Losing the art of forming human connection?
I am not debating the necessity to network professionally, simply the change to our mindset and re-framing it as ‘connecting’. Semantics you may say or rather a return to our ‘Neanderthal’ basic need for social interaction and connection.
And herein lies my point. Networking is simply an expansion of a group – similar to a spider building a web BUT connecting (human to human) is where the benefit really is and one that comes much more naturally to us.
So, let’s get our grown-up pants on, deep breath and connect … you got this.
Remember that time your partner made you attend a party or BBQ? You didn’t know anyone but still you attended and had a good time … let’s do this.
Here are 7 quick tips to help you connect at your best:
- Understand ‘you’, how can you play to your personality strengths?
- Prepare like Usain Bolt and give yourself the best (head) start. Ok so I am not expecting you to complete 3 laps of the conference centre. However, just like any other ‘meeting’ preparation is necessary. Why wouldn’t you give yourself the advantage (and comfort) of knowing who is attending beforehand.
- Pre-event actions: Raise your own profile, let your industry colleagues know you’re attending. Connect on LinkedIn or send a message suggesting a meet up. Check out any speakers.
- Scoring a high cringe factor of 9/10 – embrace the ‘strangers are just friends I haven’t met yet’ approach.
- Lose the self-importance, so what if you say ‘something wrong’ or forget someone’s name. This is the age of ‘feed me fast information consumerism’ where our brains move on faster than the speed of light!
- Be an animal … Use your natural emotional intelligence and intuitive human behaviour to read body language and ‘sense’ friend from time waster.
- Think about the ‘buffet’, I once met a master connector that stood by the buffet at the whole event. He knew for many this was a safe haven (pretending to be busy, avoiding eye contact with the room), for him it was strategic, he could speak with people in a more relaxed natural manner.
- What’s your purpose, not in the ‘life/universe’ capacity. I simply mean you are there for a reason, so set yourself a couple of micro-challenges and an overall goal.
Post-event warm down – whilst you and your new ‘connections’ are still fore of mind. Re-connect within 48 hours on LinkedIn or via email.
Continuity of connection is key.
Until next time we connect!
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