There are plenty of reasons to dislike networking. It has the unfortunate perception of being an overused word that people use to trick professionals into attending an event in order to listen to every sales pitch under the sun. Not to mention the miles you have to drive, bad parking, avoiding cheesy pickup lines and having to repeatedly answer “So what do you do?”
If you think I’m going to commiserate with you and tell you you’re right to avoid networking events, you’re wrong. (See the title of this blog!) All of those points above are excuses—but lucky for you, I’m going to get you off your couch, out of your fuzzy slippers and networking in no time.
Here’s how you do it:
Start by finding a friend who also needs to network.
Not your drinking buddy or wing man, but another professional like yourself who is also looking for a job or seeking to increase clientele for his business. Then take this friend with you.
Don’t stand around speaking to your friend all evening. In fact, you shouldn’t really speak to him much at all (with the below exception). Instead, before you go, find out what your friend is looking for, in detail. Then give your friend the same information about your goals. Who are you hoping to speak to this evening? What industry or job title are you specifically seeking?
Once you’re both clear on the information you each need to procure, start working the room—on opposite ends. (Literally go to opposite ends of the venue and start speaking to people.)
There are so many great benefits to this tactic:
1. You’re not attending a networking event alone. Should you be cornered by the creepy guy uttering one-liners, you can extricate yourself from the conversation by saying your friend is waiting for you…over there. Way over there.
2. By not attending alone, you are much less likely to manufacture an excuse as to why you shouldn’t go. When someone is expecting you to meet them there or you are their ride to the event, your excuses begin to pale.
3. You have a second set of ears listening for opportunities for you.
4. You have someone who can make an introduction for you when they come across someone you need to meet. This is the exception to when it’s okay to chat with the friend you came with. Your friend is going to “talk you up” and say things you want to say about yourself but can’t without sounding like an egomaniac.
5. If you’re shy, this forces you to speak to people because you know your friend is expecting you to network on his behalf as well as your own.
6. It makes the process fun. You and your friend can get competitive and see who can find the most qualified professionals to speak to that evening.
7. You will meet many more people and thereby increase the chances of achieving your objective.
If you’re looking for a job, make sure you’re networking in the right place. As a career strategist, I teach professionals how to get the job they want, and networking is the way to do it. But like anything, the right tool used incorrectly is completely useless. A job will not fall out of the sky and into your lap, so what is your strategy for getting the job you want?
What’s working for you when it comes to networking? Or, better yet, if you try this strategy, tell us how it worked in the comments!