The first networking event (a “Mixer”) that I ever went to was right after I was terminated by a company where I was part of a “big, happy family” in a massive, nation-wide reduction in force. I was probably still in “shell shock” but I knew that networking was an important part of getting my next job. I paid for the event, bought a new outfit, worked up a clear, concise elevator pitch, and forced myself to go. Since it was local, I was sure that I would see people I knew when I got there. I was shy but I knew I could leverage my diminished confidence with the friends I would see in the room. When I got there, there were more than 200 total strangers. I stood just inside the door, off to the side, my back against the wall, for about 20 minutes of sheer terror and fled. I was out $50 for the event, more than that for the outfit but that would be reusable for interviews, and completely stressed out by my utter failure at my first networking effort.
What would have made the difference? What could I have done to get a better outcome? I’m always looking for ways to improve my skills. I heard this a while ago and did one of those slap to the forehead “duh” moments. I could have turned around and that would have turned around the whole experience.
When you arrive at any kind of mixer, forget that you’re shy if you are. Forget that your confidence is at a low point. Pretend to be confident, sure of yourself, easy to connect with. Stand off to the side a little, just inside the door, and greet people as they enter. You’ll not only help them break the ice, you’ll seem like someone who belongs there, someone they want to know. Ask them what they do. Show interest in their response. When they are done, let them know what you do and, maybe, how you might have an opportunity to collaborate. It’s something like the song from The King and I, “Whenever I feel afraid, I whistle a happy tune so no one will suspect I’m afraid.” Just like the song says, the result is that you’ll fool yourself as well. The event may have started with you pretending but it will end with you making real life mutually beneficial connections with other professionals. Try it – it works.
Conclusion: Networking supports your job search best with confident, clear, concise communication of your value and a sincere effort at mutual support. Don’t waste the effort you put into developing your clear, concise message go to waste. Face the opportunity head on!
Got drama in your workplace? Drama comes from confusion and resulting dissatisfaction. Put a solid, structured business system and clear, concise communication in place and end the drama.
Joy Montgomery converts business requirements to system specifications, presentations, and documents in a way that strengthens teams – a friendly way. She puts you in a position to succeed with consistently satisfied customers and employees.