Can You Define Networking? It’s Not What You Think.

NetworkingNetworking is one of those maligned concepts that strikes fear in many hearts, especially introverts. In my workshop called “Networking Secrets from an Ex-Wallflower,” the first secret is to understand what networking actually is and isn’t.

In the workshop, almost as soon as I start defining what networking is NOT, people start to relax and say things like:

Oh, networking does not equal pain and suffering!! ~Mary

Once you know what it is, you will understand it’s kinda fun. If it’s not, you’re not doing it right.

Common Myths About Networking

Let’s start with what it’s NOT. We commonly associate networking with these ideas, but they are exactly what it should NOT be:

  • Blurting things out to strangers.
  • Giving a hard sales pitch.
  • Bragging.
  • Being someone you’re not.
  • Having the perfect thing to say.
  • Handing out your card to everyone in the room.

Who likes pushiness, hard sales, fakeness, or bragging? Obviously those don’t work. You never need to be those things!

Don’t be pushy. It doesn’t work — what a relief! ~Networking Workshop Participant

If you’re an introvert, you’re likely to be repulsed by doing these things, so you’re safe from making those mistakes already! Yay! That was easy.

How Does It Actually Work?

Networking is simply having conversations and sharing information. In fact, I think networking is just a fancy word for making friends.

Everyone has experience with having a good, flowing, useful conversation  — even wallflowers. So, you already know how to do networking and enjoy it.

To understand what works for networking, you just need to know what makes a good conversation:

  • Listening.
    It’s the perfect starting place! Hint: Introverts naturally start by listening so they are already ahead of the game!
  • Being real.
    Your real-life, imperfect self is exactly who people want to talk to.
  • Being helpful.
    If you’ve listened, you’ll often find yourself naturally responding with ideas for them.

I don’t have to be someone I’m not. I can work with who I am. ~Networking Workshop Participant

Don’t you want to meet someone who listens, is authentic, and offers help? Let that be your focus and they’ll line up to talk to you. Seriously. That happens to me and my workshop graduates all the time now. And ya gotta admit, that’s kinda fun when they line up.

Then What?

Of course, it doesn’t end with one conversation. You want to leave someone with your contact information and get theirs…so you can initiate a follow-up conversation. Yes, more conversations, but the rules are the same: listen, be real, offer help. And now that you’re just being you, the conversations are easy and fun.

Proof That We Already LOVE Networking

We do it all the time. Facebook anyone? Interacting on Facebook is a type of networking. Who knew we loved networking so much that half the nation is addicted to it?

Yeh, But…

I know, I can hear a few wallflowers saying, “Yeh, but, I hate those networking events. I just clam up. I hate talking to strangers. I don’t know what to say.” So I’ve got a few more resources to help with finding what to do and say:

For clarity, this post is not meant as the final word on solving your networking concerns. That’s why my networking workshop has 4 secrets, not just this one. I’m trying to make it as easy as possible for people to learn all the secrets by offering workshops regularly and writing about networking here.

What’s Your Experience?

I’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below. What’s your experience with networking? The good and the bad.

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