PRO NETWORKING TIPS
Written by Raychel Espiritu
As many of us already know, networking can be crucial to professional development, regardless of what industry you are in. It's especially important for the entrepreneur and early stage founder, who's very future might rest on their network. So how do those of us with social anxiety become a networking pro? According to Arianna O’Dell from Fast Company, there are four rules she lives by that have enabled her to become a networking pro despite being an introvert.
MAKE A GOAL FOR EVENTS
One of the hardest parts about networking is finding the willpower to just get up and attend the event itself. In her Fast Company article, O’Dell described her experience into entering the music industry with little to no experience nor contacts. She found herself creating a list of events she was interested in attending and each month committed to attending at least one. Having a physical list of goals helps us be accountable. The next step, as she describes is just letting go of any social fears or fears of rejections and having a personable conversation with anyone at the event. More often that not, you’ll meet people you’d never have expected just by taking the time to start a conversation and introducing yourself. You’ll find that people like to talk about themselves which can be used to your advantage as you begin to understand their values and intentions - hopefully leading to some common ground.
FIND A NETWORKING BUDDY
We were taught the buddy system at a young age and to our surprise, it still applies into adulthood. Taking a partner to a networking event can help you even if it’s just by getting you through the front door. O’Dell recommends finding a peer with similar interests and industry goals that can attend networking events with you. Having a buddy provides you with someone to hold you accountable and to have nearby to help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety. However, this doesn’t mean you should stay together the whole time, but you’ll be able to reconvene later in the night and have an escape route if a conversation doesn’t hold.
SUPPORT OTHERS BEFORE YOU EXPECT THEM TO SUPPORT YOU
Finding supportive peers is always a bonus through networking events. That being said, you shouldn’t merely ask for it, rather take the time to do your part in providing support for others. Erin Tonkon, producer and mixer at Little Underground, also suggests getting involved within your local scenes in providing support. Be able to support your community and communicate with local business owners.
DON’T FOCUS ON SELLING, FOCUS ON BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS
Despite common conception, networking becomes an asset when we focus on developing personal relationships rather than trying to sell ourselves or our business. Begin by seeking to understand the other individual gives you the upper hand in many cases as you begin to learn about them and their work ethic rather than asking for something in return. Networking can be intimidating, especially for those of us that would rather be a wallflower. But it’s important to remember that it doesn’t come naturally, like everything, it just takes practice. Every win is a win, no matter how big or small.