You’re an adult, accomplished in your field of expertise looking to push forward with your life and make big career gains. But one thing stands in your way – networking. The way to meet people, gain new opportunities and increase your career potential in endless amounts.

The problem? You hate it.

Do not fear – you are not on your own. Networking can be horrific for some people. Sterile, wide open personality-less rooms filled with hundreds or thousands of people with name stickers. Lots of nervous energy and sweaty handshakes with people browsing corporate displays and chatting to other people – all parties trying to make the most of the situation. And in amongst all this schmoozing and pretence, you have to somehow try and make real connections with people.

© Sean MacEntee

Networking is an art, and some people are incredible at it. It enables us to get new clients, make potential business partnerships, gain new jobs and headhunt fresh employee talent. But for some of us, despite all the many positives, networking events are truly horrible experiences.

So how do you network when you hate networking? Here’s how;

Be Interested

It’s important in life to always be interested in the person you are talking with. Everyone loves to talk about themselves so one instant way to hold someone’s attention is to actually let them talk about themselves. Enter into conversations, not one way rehearsed pitches where you spend the entire social opportunity blasting the person you’re with, with reams of information. They will shut down and won’t remember you as anything but the try-hard guy who constantly spoke about himself. If you’re an introvert this is the ideal scenario for you as the spotlight isn’t on you. Ask questions, listen and be interested – it’s a quality everyone appreciates.

Leave a Lasting Impression

Your key tool when networking is your business card, so if yours is as dull as a book about cloud formations, you’re going to basically be sealing your incredible conversation with a limp handshake. That is what a rubbish business card is – a limp handshake. Use bright colours, design it well so it stands out and make sure it is high quality card. If you had to have a limp, flimsy, low quality card represent you or a strong, high quality, attractive card represent you, which would you choose? Leave your new connection with the business card equivalent of a strong handshake – make your card stand out amongst the hundreds of others they may acquire throughout the day.

Go For Smaller Groups

When you are introverted, you generally don’t do well in large groups of people full of large personalities. The first thing you need to do is get to your networking event early so you have less people to approach and more of an intimate atmosphere. You’ll also get the ‘early bird’ benefit of catching people before they are overwhelmed with meeting people and swapping details.

Network within Your Company

One mistake a lot of people make is forgetting the networking opportunities within their own company. It might be the case Deborah from HR knows of a promotion coming up in a few months you would be perfect for, or Colin from accounts is looking at putting someone forward for a new training programme but neither of them know you, so wouldn’t know you were interested. Network within your company by meeting people on work events and saying hi and striking up conversations in and around the office, you might be surprised how beneficial knowing people in different departments is.

Make Sure You Do Follow Ups

In order for a contact to be successful you have to follow up within around 24 hours to 48 hours after the networking event. It helps when following up to include details of the exchange you had with the person when you exchanged details. As you will be speaking with lots of different people all day, you may well struggle to remember details about each and every person attached to each business card. How do you resolve this problem? Write down a couple of notes on each business card after your exchange. Simple things like – enjoys shooting or supports Man United. Include personal details in your email or phone call and it will be appreciated – generic doesn’t work well for networking follow up communications. You may as well make the follow-up count – you put yourself through the networking event, you deserve a payoff!

Remember, networking isn’t fun for a lot of people, but it is beneficial. Keep in mind that it is just a couple of hours of your life that could make a huge difference with the company you work for, your career and your confidence – make the most of it.

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