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Networking for NetworkPhobes

When you really, really, really hate networking...

· Career Coaching

A lot of people hate networking. I mean, hate it, hate it. Would rather eat a Ghost Pepper than go to a networking event kind of hate it. But most people have to do it. Here are some ways to make it less heinous. Possibly even bearable, or miracle of miracles, fun.

The first step to solving your Networking hatred is to figure out what kind of NetworkPhobe you are. Here’s a list of the most typical variations on the theme, along with ideas to help you cope.

  • NetworkPhobe #1 - You’re an Introvert. Introverts dread networking events, mostly because they typical involve speaking to people :). Being a Grade-A Introvert, I know your pain. Pick events that draw smaller, more intimate crowds, versus massive ones in convention centers. The later can suck the life out of an Introvert, and send you hiding in the bathroom. But smaller events are typically a bit quieter and let you connect one on one with people, which can actually energize versus deplete Introverts.
  • NetworkPhobe #2 – You’re just plain shy. If you go all deer-in-the-headlights when faced with the prospect of introducing yourself to a stranger, enlist a Networking Buddy who has the gift of the gab, and be their wing (wo)man. They can do the heavy lifting, and you can chime in once your social paralysis chills out a bit. A little liquid courage goes a long way too! :)
  • NetworkPhobe #3 – Smalltalk-Dreader. One of the most common excuses I get from Not-Networkers is that they hate small talk. A lot.  You can safely assume that everyone else hates it as much as you do.  Instead of just asking what a person does for a living, once they tell you, ask them what led them to be in that role, and where they see it taking them in life. Don’t make assumptions about their story, and stay curious. You’ll be surprised by the sometimes circuitous route a conversation will take.

Regardless of why you hate Networking, here are some tips to go forth and conquer:

  • Elevator Pitch - Have some kind of an interesting elevator pitch formed. A coach recently led me and a crew of about 30 through an exercise to come up with a unique way to introduce yourself. First, get a partner in crime. You each get 10 minutes to ask whatever questions you want about the other – professional, personal, childhood, passions, things nobody would guess about you. Then they take all the info to craft an introduction of you based on what they learned. Try it! (For extra credit,  try not to use the verb "To Be").
  • Pick The Right Events – There is so much going on in LA these days, you could spend all day, every day at one event or another. Pick ones that actually hold some kind of interest for you. Ask around and find out what your friends and colleagues recommend. If you are a Startup Founder looking for capital, skip the party MeetUps and go to events where you know Investors will be there. Another way to meet new people is to volunteer at a non-profit where you know you’ll be meeting others with shared interests.  For more ideas:
    • Read my recent Newsletter which gives ideas on some upcoming events and mailing lists worth joining.
    • Read The Day I Spent In Prison, a blog I wrote about a volunteer day I spent teaching Entrepreneurs in Training at California City Prison. If this isn’t your thing, there are a million ways to give back, and meet like-minded people. Try Idealist or VolunteerMatch to find your volunteer calling.

Happy Networking!

PS, don’t forget to send a LinkedIn connection request to everyone you meet no longer than 24 hours after the event.

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