I have spoken to companies and organizations across the country on networking. I didn’t start that way. I started like everyone else by going to networking events with friends and talking to people I know. I was socializing but I called it networking.
People always tell me that they aren’t wired for networking and that networking isn’t in their comfort zone. Speaking to companies and organizations wasn’t originally in my comfort zone. However with practice you get better at things. The same applies to networking.
Networking is a journey. To get really good at something you have to do it repeatedly. It’s the same with networking. Some people try it once or twice and call it a day. You don’t stop eating after a bad meal in a restaurant.
So here are some tips on how those that hate to network can become great networkers.
First, talk to people. Talk to everyone always. Everyone you encounter every day and throughout your day. I have written in the past that networking isn’t about going to an event it is about an attitude of engagement and how you live your life. Talk to your Barista, the person at the laundry, your neighbors, the UPS Store person, the check out person at your grocery store, people at the gym. Everyone. Every day. It becomes easier with time. You will become a better networker and more importantly you will live a richer life.
Carry your business cards all the time and hand them out to people you meet and connect with. The worst place to keep your cards is in a wallet or a purse. The best place for your cards is in your hand or in your pocket where they are readily accessible. You never know where or when that important connection is going to take place. I got my first gig when I started Blank and Associates having a glass of wine at my neighborhood bar, Salt Creek Grille. I was having a glass of wine around the fire and somebody joined me and we started talking about wine. He asked me what I did. I crossed my fingers and said I had an advertising and public relations firm as I had been in business for four days. I had business cards though. He mentioned that his company needed a brochure and they became my first client.
Then Listen. Listening is one of the most powerful tools in networking. When you approach two people listen to what they are talking about. That provides the platform for engagement. Listening helps you to find a common ground.
Compliments lead to connections. Everybody likes to be complimented. Compliment people about their cards, their dress, their shoes or other simple things. Trust me, you will start talking.
I love accents because I get to travel and learn about the different backgrounds of people. I have met Armenians, South Africans, Canadians, French, German, and even Slovenians like my friend Tatiana Richards who I met at a networking event. It is easy. “I love your accent? Where are you from?”
You are not alone even if your go by yourself. You have something to offer. I have met many people who were not the most outgoing but have been very valuable resources in my life because I engaged with them.
I know a great networker here in the OC called Tina Wilson. Tina is a great voice over talent and even a lounge singer. I run into her at networking events with her Seeing Eye dog. She doesn’t let anything stop her from networking. Most of our networking inhibitions are self imposed.
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Watch a video: Networking Tips for Those Who Hate to Network.