I used to think attending events was the best way to network. What better way to rub elbows with successful people in your industry than by attending the same events?! It’s good in theory, but here’s what really happens:
- You end up fighting for people’s attention.
- You put on a “show” to win them over in hopes they’ll want to work with you.
- It’s a forced relationship versus a natural connection.
Instead of thinking about networking as handing out as many of your business cards as possible, learn the right way to network and you won’t have to hand out any business cards, trust me.
Networking is a science that you either understand or don’t. And the great thing about science is there’s a technique that anyone can use – if they know how to use it.
What it all comes down to is chemistry.
Networking is like professional dating – the chemistry is there or it isn’t and if it isn’t, don’t try to force it. Some of my best connections have happened naturally on an airplane, in line, on the subway, or through mutual friends. So aside from all your misconceptions, here is the right way to network.
If you read my blog, follow me on Snapchat or Instagram, you’ll know I just got back from Costa Rica. You’ll also know I’m absolutely 100% terrified to fly but I do it anyway because I won’t let my fear stop me from doing things I want to do. One good thing that developed from this fear is that I end up talking to whoever is sitting next to me for most of the flight (poor guy).
I usually try not to just BS with the person, but really offer value in our conversation, (after all he/she has to hear my babble for 3-4 hours straight with an occasional hand hold if there’s turbulence). So on the final leg of my trip to Costa Rica, I ended up chatting with a girl from CA who was going to school for interior design but lacked inspiration, confidence, and branding skills to get out there and killed it.
Naturally, I went into total “blog mode” and went on a rant about ideas to brand herself, how she could crack into the digital world, and the best ways to approach someone for an internship.
I don’t even remember what I said, but apparently it was pretty good because she posted a picture of us on her Instagram and even though she only has 300 followers, I gained quite a few. Not only that, but now she could talk about me with her friends and word of mouth is the best type of branding.
Moral of the story: never underestimate the power of offering value…even in the strangest of places like an airplane.
Living in NYC can be rough at times. People are shoving, cursing, yelling, running all with one thing in mind: themselves. It’s rare people say thank you or walk slower than 5 mph, but when you initiate the interaction of being a nice human, it comes back tenfold.
I recently made it a point – if the timing was right, strike up a conversation with 1 person a day on the subway. So far it’s worked out great! I’ve made 3 engaged blog fans, helped 5 people get jobs, and met an editorial photographer.
The key to my networking success? Being nice. There is no fake it til you make it here.
Spend time, not money
Usually, networking events, blogger meet-ups, and fashion shows cost money to attend. So, you spend money to maybe make money through a “high power connection”? That sounds like a risk; a risk I’m not willing to take.
Don’t get me wrong, I am the biggest advocate for investing in yourself…when the reward outweighs the risk. Before you invest in a networking event, take the time to look over your goals and really analyze if attending a networking event supersedes the cost of doing it. After all, time is money.
Sometimes, spending a little extra time with someone you met in line is all it takes to form a solid connection.
And other times, spending time on a project, blog post, or new venture requires your attention more than this super cool, hip, networking event.
Key takeaways: Be memorable but not annoying whenever you go. Offer value. Don’t talk about yourself – make the conversation about the other person. Spend time on what matters most in that moment.
What is your take on networking events? Tell us in the comments below!
Image Source Credits – Harper’s Bazaar