For some reason, in my friend group, I’ve been noted for being a networking fiend.
I love it. I love going to an event with like-minded people from different paths of life and talking about everything from the topic bringing us together to places we’ve traveled to that random movie “you have to see”. As an ambivert, it’s my complete and utter happy place to be surrounded by new, wonderful people and go back to a quiet home to reflect.
A lot of people still ask me though how I do it, which puzzles me to no end. To me it’s simple but I have friends bring up how it can be awkward, or uncomfortable, or an odd situation. From that side I get it, we’ve been told that networking is sleazy, manipulative, and gross and honestly it can be. That’s why I looked back and figured out a list of tips on how to make your next event less worrisome and more fun.
Going Stag isn’t Bad
Don’t be scared to go to something alone.
Honestly, it is the best for networking. You are free to make more connections with strangers and without your friends to rely on it’s easier to glide group to group. Plus, people will think you are brave for having the balls (or ovaries) to go alone.
And if you are afraid of talking with someone, don’t be. Everyone there came for the same reason as you and are just as nervous.
Look for Friends
In the creative field at least, look at any connection as a possible friendship.
I don’t know why it took me so long, but don’t talk shop or design the entire time. Talk about your interest and find out the other person’s as well. If you look at any relationship as something like a friendship rather than a professional connection, you’ll act more naturally than if you are worried that this small talk is something that would make or break your career because honestly, it’s most likely not.
So breathe, laugh, have fun; you’re off the clock, so enjoy yourself.
Focus on the Give
I hate, hate, hate when people go to a networking event searching for someone to give them something. You know what I’m talking about. Not only is it just gross to be using another human being as career leverage, but also you probably aren’t paying attention to what people talking with you are saying since you are so focused on your goal in mind.
So that’s why I always go into networking events with the mentality that I’m there to give. It’s not that I’m hot shit or anything, but going in thinking “I want to help someone” feels better than “what can I get out of this event”. It makes you a better listener to those you meet and if you can help someone else with something in his or her career, it’s an awesome thing to do. And honestly, isn’t that something you wish someone would do for you?
Be yourself. If you aren’t smiley all the time or have the ability to bounce group to group naturally, don’t. Do what feels comfortable and act as you would normally. “Fake it till you make it” is not a real thing and even people that just met you can tell you are being unauthentic and fake.
So do what feels right. If that is being a wallflower and just listening to the presentation, do it. If you just want to talk to one new person the entire night and hang out with them, do it. If you want to get a beer afterwards with a cool group of people at a bar nearby, ask them and do it. As long as it’s true to you and not completely outlandish, you are destined for success.
You Miss All the Shots You Don’t Take
This is the final and most important tip anyone can follow.
GO TO THE DAMN EVENT.
I have so many friends that get nervous about meeting new people, go through a ton of “what if” scenarios, and ponder in their sweatpants until there is no way for them to make it to the event on time. Seriously, guys, just go. It’s better than re-watching Parks & Rec for the twenty-fourth time on Netflix and you could miss a really awesome opportunity.
I remember during my junior year of college, there was a new group starting up and I wasn’t sure if I should go to their first meeting. I debated in my head if I would go for over an hour. I thought about all the homework I could be doing instead or that nap I could take within the hour span. Instead though I went, and if I didn’t go to that first meeting and met the professor running it I know my life would be drastically different than the one I have now.
Imagine all those events that you thought about going to and didn’t. All those different paths that could’ve formed and taken you to a pretty cool destination. They’re shut. Permanently. And this isn’t supposed to upset you or say that you are destined to fail now because you didn’t go to that one event that would set a chain of events that would change your whole life.
I’m saying that these events or opportunities will pop-up in the coming weeks. I know you have them, that Facebook event your friend invited you to or that industry mixer you are nervous about. You should go. Take the chance. See where is leads. You won’t know what will happen until you do it.